Perfect summer Pesto

This perfect summer Pesto perfectly brings together the fresh flavors of basil with the nuttiness of cheese and almonds.  Feel free to use any (or any combination!) of fresh herbs, and try switching up the types of cheese and nuts.  As long as you combine these variables with some delicious olive oil and a touch of garlic, your end product will be delicious!

Fresh basil pesto pasta with sautéed shrimp and Blue Lake Green Beans

Fresh basil pesto pasta with sautéed shrimp and Blue Lake Green Beans

10 cups loosely packed Basil leaves (or parsley, cilantro, etc)

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano

1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped

2 TBL almonds, coarsely chopped*

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling**



*Pine nuts are typical in pesto, but can be expensive!  Try using almonds or walnuts instead!  I usually coarsely chop the nuts in the food processor beforehand, as almonds tend to be tougher and larger than pine nuts.

**I prefer mild EVOO to concentrate on the flavors of the basil and cheese, but if you have a favorite give it a shot!

The first step adds a little bit of time and effort to the process but it ensures you will have a bright green, beautiful pesto that will maintain it's color in the fridge and freezer.  Feel free to skip it, but pesto does tend to brown in the fridge.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Working in small batches, blanch the basil leaves for about 10 seconds, then transfer them to a bowl of ice water to let cool completely.  Set about 1 cup of the blanching water aside for later.

After it's completely cool, drain the basil and squeeze excess water.  Lay it out on paper towels to get a little more of the water out, it will be about 1/2 cup.

Put basil, 1/2 cup cheese, almonds, and garlic in a food processor, pulsing until combined and adding small amounts of reserved blanching water to thin it if necessary.  Process 1-2 minutes, until a thick paste forms.

Stir in 1/2 cup olive oil (by hand, not with food processor), season to taste with salt, and you're done!

Add to pasta primavera, drizzle over some burrata and tomatoes, or add to a grain bowl -- pesto goes with everything!  A little bit goes a long way, so I prefer to freeze a few small containers for a good go-to addition to lunch or dinner down the road.

Did you know?

Basil contains disease-fighting antioxidants and can help reduce stress levels.  Nuts and olive oils both contain "healthy" fats, making pesto the perfect combination of fresh, healthy ingredients.  

Cutting down on the amount of olive oil or cheese in this recipe is a great way to cut down a few calories!  Less liquid will yield a thicker pesto, which can be delicious, but you can also feel free to add in more of the reserved blanching liquid to thin it out a bit.