Basil is in season and if you have recently planted it in your garden the fragrant herb is probably trying to take over! I have a planter of it on my balcony and I still have plenty of it to make lots of yummy things.
Number one thing to make with basil? Pesto of course!
- 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese (see Cook’s Note)
Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
If using immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese.
If freezing, transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw and stir in cheese.
Now, what to do with all of that pesto?
Cooking Carmen makes Pesto Parmesan Tomatoes. These looked tasty and I had lots of fresh tomatoes from our CSA box and my dad’s garden, so I thought I would give them a go.
I altered the recipe just a tad. These are super easy to make and make a great appetizer or snack. Beware, they do get a bit messy when you bite into that juicy tomato!
- Mozzarella or other favorite cheese
Slice small tomatoes in half, or large tomatoes in thick slices and place on cooking sheet.
Spoon pesto evenly over tomatoes.
Sprinkle with cheese.
Bake in oven preheated to 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and starts to brown. If my oven wasn’t silly about broiling, I would have broiled them until they got crispy on the top – whatever works for you!
My husband and I don’t eat a lot of grains – especially processed grains. We may occasionally consume sprouted bread or sprouted corn tortillas, but that’s about it. For his birthday though, he wanted to splurge and requested a favorite dish of his: stuffed shells. Here is the recipe:
Pesto and spinach stuffed shells
- 15 pasta shells (if you can find them, quinoa pasta is great)
- 1/2-1 cup tomato sauce (homemade, plain canned sauce, or seasoned spaghetti sauce)
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped (for sauce)
- 1/2 tbsp butter (for sauce)
- 1 tsp italian seasoning (for sauce)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- 2 cups spinach, chopped
- 1/2 cup pesto
- 1 cup + 1/2 cup cheese – I used a combination of mozzarella and parmesan
Boil shells to desired consistency. Drain, and let cool for a few minutes.
While cooking shells, prepare sauce and filling.
For sauce: saute garlic with butter until garlic starts to brown. Add tomato sauce. Stir in italian seasonings. Bring to a simmer then turn off heat.
For filling: Combine garlic powder, tomatoes, spinach, pesto, and 1 cup cheese in a bowl.This filling can easily be made with more or less of an ingredient, do what works best for you!
When shells are done cooking and cool enough to handle, stuff a spoonful of filling into them and place filling side up in a 9×9 Pirex dish or pan. Pirex dish will fit about 13 shells.
Spoon sauce over the top and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of cheese.
Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for approximately 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and dish is heated all the way through.
My favorite super indulgent, super delicious, straight to the thighs, carb craving dinner recipe involves pesto as well.
Lulubelle’s favorite pesto pasta:
- 1 package cheese tortolinis or raviolis
- 1/4-1/2 cup Pesto
- 1 small jar garlic cream sauce (or any other favorite white sauce)
- 1 small can sliced olives
- 3 cloves of garlic, diced
- 1/2 tbsp butter or 1 tsp olive oil
- Other optional add-ins:
- 1-2 tbsp capers
- 2 tbsp sun dried tomatoes, diced
- 1/4 cup diced onions
Prepare pasta according to directions.
While pasta is cooking, saute garlic in butter or oil in a sauce pan (saute other optional add-ins at this time as well).
When garlic starts to brown, add white sauce, olives, and pesto. Stir to combine.
Heat sauce until it begins to simmer.
Serve over pasta.
Want to make matters worse? Garlic bread is pretty tasty when you dip it into this sauce…
Enjoy, and then collapse into a food coma.
Pesto can also be easily used as a pizza sauce. Use this recipe and substitute oil and salsa with the pesto. I would recommend leaving out the peppers if you are using traditional pesto.
I also came across a recipe for a tomato based pesto and it looks delicious. I haven’t tried it yet, but I need to. Soon.
Makes 2 cups (500 ml)
Use right away or freeze. Alternatively, this will keep in the fridge, tightly covered, for up to 1 week with a thin layer of olive oil poured on top of the pesto to prevent the basil from turning black.
- 1 cup (125 g) whole almonds
- 3 large ripe tomatoes, quartered, or 10 ripe cherry tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 2 oz (50 g) fresh basil leaves (about 2 large handfuls)
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) good-quality olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the pesto, place the almonds in a food processor and whizz until they’re reduced to nibs (don’t overprocess them to a paste). Add in the tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper and whizz again until everything is well combined. Add more olive oil if you want the consistency of the pesto to be thinner.
What is your favorite dish to make with pesto?