Oh, the many flavors of summer…basil pesto being one of them. Amazing spooned into pasta, slathered on grilled chicken, dolloped on homemade soup, or sauced on a pizza, the ways to use your summer bounty are endless. Make several batches to freeze and savor the flavor of summer all year long.
Growing Genovese Basil
It should be noted, I have a whole section in my garden dedicated to growing basil each summer to make this sauce. Pesto freezes well and then we can enJOY the summer flavor all year long. Pesto is a family favorite and a quick dinner or lunch fix when it is prepared ahead of time.
I order my Genovese Basil plants online because I love to grow organic herbs in my garden. Technically, I could grow basil from seed, but it takes too long and I just can’t wait to jump into savoring this amazing summer herb in all my cooking. Obviously, I prefer the jump start to this annual.
We used to have the most amazing herb farm called Well Sweep Herb Farm, just two minutes from our home in New Jersey, where I would purchase all my summer herbs. But alas, we have moved far far away and they don’t do mail order. If you live in the northern New Jersey area, it is so worth a visit. It truly was my happy place. Now I order my organic Genovese Basil plants online and have them shipped to me from GrowJoy.com. Can you believe the name? Of course I had to order from them.
Variations to Summer Pesto
I realize that the cost of pine nuts keeps rising, so technically, I have been making my Summer Pesto with toasted walnuts instead these days. Truthfully, walnuts are loaded with brain boosting nutrients (just look at their God-given shape…brilliant!!!). It doesn’t change the flavor that much to justify the cost.
If you want to make this without the cheese, feel free to eliminate it. Some have even added in nutritional yeast as a substitute. I have not tried this, although I LOVE nutritional yeast on my Popcorn with a Pop.
You may also adjust the amount of oil. I prefer a creamier sauce, but some may prefer more texture. Maybe start with 1/4 cup and find the amount that suits your fancy. That is the wonderful thing about cooking. The kitchen is your laboratory and you are the creator. Play with flavors.
Many recipes don’t even call for lemon. Not only do I love lemon because it preserves the beautiful green color of the basil better, but it adds an incredible mouthfeel to the recipe: sweet from the basil and nuts, salty from the cheese, bitter from the lemon rind, and sour from the lemon juice. It’s a party in the mouth. I add lemon juice as well as lemon zest. Additionally, I have been adding my Preserved Lemon to add a depth of salty lemon flavor with the added fermented benefits as well.
Lastly, in the spring, I have even made this pesto using arugula or even chickweed I foraged along the forest and garden path. My children and I love to learn about foraging and all the wonderful plants underfoot that we can eat. Just substitute out the basil for arugula or chickweed. EnJOY!
Summer Pesto Recipe
- 1 cup toasted pine nuts or walnuts
- 2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 preserved lemon rind finely minced (optional) or zest from 1 organic lemon
- 4 garlic cloves -about 1 T chopped
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigano-Romano cheese
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves (stems removed)
- sea salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
- Toast the pine nuts or walnuts in a dry cast iron pan until fragrant. This is optional, but it will intensify the flavor.
- Add the cooled pine nuts or walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, and lemon zest or minced preserved lemon peel to a food processor and process until well chopped.
- Add in the basil and pulse until combined.
- With the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil and pulse until combined. You want your pesto smooth but with texture, so pulsing until you get your preferred texture is better than just running your machine.
- Pulse in your grated parmessan until fully incorporated.
- Serve with pasta, over chicken, as a pizza sauce, alongside a toasted baggette, layered in lasagna, or spooned in a soup.... oh, the many ways to use pesto.
- Basil is plentiful in the summer months, consider making several batches to freeze and enJOY all year long.
Check Out These Other Related Posts…
Interestingly, I have also enJOYed finding ways to incorporate my favorite Preserved Lemons into my recipes and have found that they add a wonderful depth to this Summer Pesto. If you haven’t checked out my post on Preserved Lemons, give it a try. You will be amazed at the ways you can savor your citrus in everything from this pesto to Humm’n Hummus.
Check out Herb Fairies if you want to learn about foraging for herbs with your children. Growing and harvesting herbs is a wonderful thing to do with children. It helps connect them to their food source, encourages them to try new flavors, as well as passes on the value of growing your own food. My post on Foraging for Spring Violets with Children can get you started.
This post on Homemade Pizza is loaded with the best homemade pizza dough plus red and white sauce. Many people swear by pesto as their favorite pizza sauce. My mom loves pesto pizza with clams and a combination mozzarella/Jack cheese sprinkled with fresh chopped garlic and oregano.
Pesto Chicken Sandwiches are a family favorite! Simply grill some chicken thighs, slather a baguette with pesto, sprinkle with fresh feta cheese, and finish off with some spicy arugula and you have the perfect summer sandwich.