Pesto, Please!

Part two of Spring Break out the Fat Pants is still in progress, but I’ve had multiple requests for pesto instead – both the dish and the recipe.  Fortunately, I also have a glut of basil and Italian parsley in my Aerogarden (yes, I still LOVE that thing!), so pesto pasta is what’s for dinner tonight and my besto pesto recipe is what’s for blog today.

Photo by Susan Wenzel

I'll be serving the pesto over Trader Joe’s fusilli pasta (I like how the sauce clings to the spirals of the pasta shape, and the flavor and texture of TJ’s fusilli is the best, bar none).  I also plan to toss in chunks of leftover Easter ham.  Yum!  

Pesto is equally delicious with pasta and peas (or just peas or just pasta), stuffed in chicken breasts, or on bread, pizza, shrimp…ok, ok, it’s good on nearly everything (but ice cream).  Pesto is as wonderfully versatile as it is exquisitely fragrant and gorgeously green. 

Here’s the how-to:

A Good Cooker’s Besto Pesto

2c fresh basil leaves (packed)
1/4c fresh flat leaf Italian parsley (packed)
3 cloves garlic
1/4c pine nuts
1/2-1t salt (more or less to taste)
1/2c good extra-virgin olive oil (I like Filippo Berio)
1/4c grated parmesan (or Romano or Asiago or any combo of the three)

-Toast pine nuts in a non-stick skillet over med-high heat until golden brown, oily looking, and fragrant (3-4 minutes).  Remove from pan and set aside to cool.
-Blanch garlic cloves in boiling water for one minute (or put them in 1/2c water and microwave for 1 minute).  Set aside to cool.
-Place first five ingredients into food processor and pulse until chopped.
-Turn on food processor, drizzle in olive oil, process until smooth scraping sides of work bowl as necessary. 
-Add grated cheese and pulse four or five quick bursts just to combine.
-Use as desired.

Photo by Susan Wenzel

Ham and Pesto Pasta: Cook 1lb fusilli as per package directions and chunk up twelve ounces of ham into 1/2” cubes.  Drain pasta, reserving 1c pasta water.  Place cooked pasta, ham chunks, and 1/4c pasta water back in cooking pan over medium-low heat.  Add desired amount of pesto (I use it all!) and quickly stir to combine.  Add additional water to achieve desired sauce thickness.  Cook no longer than 2-3 minutes more after combining pesto and pasta to preserve flavors.  Adjust salt at this time if necessary.  Serve immediately topped with an extra sprinkle of cheese if desired.  Makes 4 hearty servings or four modest servings plus one lunch-sized bowl for the next day. 

Photo by Susan Wenzel

Note: Unused portions of pesto may be frozen for up to six months – not that it ever lasts that long in my house – actually it never seems to make it to the freezer.  I usually use the whole batch in one meal, as my kids adore pesto.  When I do freeze it, I place desired portions in a square of plastic wrap and twist-tie shut.  (I use the same method to freeze leftover tomato paste in 1-2T portions or 1/4c measures of bacon grease for cornbread).


  1. My kids don't like pesto and I've been trying to change their mind but it's been tough. As a pesto lover, it's hard. I try to order at a restaurant when I get a chance... and drool over someone's recipe like now. Looks yummy, Susan!!

  2. I wouldn't have eaten it when I was a child! The first time I tried it as an adult, I didn't like it very much either - the taste was too strange and new. Now I love it, as do my kids...they eat everything!