It’s official: summertime just ain’t summertime unless I have a pesto posting. Or two or three, seeing as I can’t think of a yummier dish to make with my favorite herb! (Although non-classic herbs like cilantro and dill also make great pesto; try pairing the former with almonds and the latter with walnuts.) At this time of year, odds are your basil is bountiful enough to carefully snap off a handful of leaves…or if you don’t have a plant of your own, local grocers and farmers markets are sporting beautiful basil bouquets from now until summer runs out.
If you have so much basil that you wind up making more pesto than you can eat right away, scoop the leftover pesto into smallish freezer-safe containers and stash them in the freezer to enjoy three months from now. Just be sure to leave as few air bubbles as possible in the pesto — use a spatula to smooth out the top, then cover it with plastic wrap, gently pressing the air bubbles outwards from the center as you lay down the wrap.
This tweak on classic pesto came about because my mother recently sent me home with freshly roasted garlic. Talk about a thoughtful culinary treat! Roasted garlic is incredibly versatile — you can include it in dressings, dips, marinades, soups, or even spread it on crackers or bread like butter. Better yet, you can make pesto with it!
1 head garlic*
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt & cracked pepper
Grated or shaved Parmesan (optional)
Whatever you’re going to include with the pesto: cooked pasta, sautéed chicken or shrimp, pan-fried fish, bread or crackers, even a plate of raw veggies for dipping
Preheat over to 325F and cover a baking tray with aluminum foil. (You won’t be eating the part that touches the foil, so aluminum is fine in this case.)
Cut the very top off of the head to expose most of the individual cloves of garlic. Drizzle a bit of oil over the top and season with salt and pepper. Wrap the foil up and over the garlic, loosely crumpling down the top of the foil to form a foil version of the classic brown-bagged package. Roast the garlic for 45 minutes, then remove from oven and let sit, unwrapped, until completely cool. Roasted garlic is VERY sticky, and you most emphatically do not want to be handling something that’s sticky and hot — it feels like you’re getting burned even though/when you’re not.
Squeeze a few cloves of the roasted garlic out into a food processor. Add basil, pinenuts, a little bit more oil, and a fresh round of salt and pepper. Whirr until you have a mostly smooth pesto. If you’d like to include the Parmesan, you can blend it into the pesto or serve it on the side.
Promptly toss/top whatever your main element is with the pesto and serve. Cut basil oxidizes (turns black) quickly, so it’s best to make pesto at the last minute and serve it right away.
* Or as many heads as you like — roasted garlic keeps in the refrigerator for a solid week, so you might as well make extra! Wrap each head in its own foil package and space them apart in the oven when you roast them.
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