Presto! It's Pesto!

With the help of your food processor, fresh pesto has never been easier.

A bunch of basil sits in a jar of water on a white background. End photo ID.

The recent hot weather has been great for basil, a Mediterranean herb that simply adores hot sunny days and mild nights, and there's nothing that brings out the best that basil has to offer than pesto. It's a perfect light dressing for pasta - especially raviolis and tortellini - and it's also delicious spread on toast and topped with slices of fresh mozzarella cheese. And it's so easy to make!

The bouquet of basil you're receiving in this week's share will provide you with just the right amount of fresh leaves to make a half-pint of pesto. That doesn't sound like a lot, but a little goes a long way...and it's always best when the arrival of something we love fills us with pleasure and it's departure leaves us hungry for more.

Presto Pesto

About 4 gently-packed cups of basil leaves

Scant 1/2 cup pine nuts (other nuts may be substituted)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 cloves garlic, roughly cut

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)

1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

A close-up of basil leaves being trimmed off the stalk with embroidery clippers. End photo ID.

Remove basil leaves from the stems. This sounds so tedious, but if you snip the leaves from the stems with a small pair of embroidery scissors, it takes no time at all.

The basket of a food processor rests on a blue background. In it are pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and basil leaves. End photo ID.

Measure out the four cups of leaves, and place half of them in the food processor along with the nuts, cheese, garlic, and salt. Pulse the processor to finely chop all of the ingredients, stopping as necessary to scrape down the sides of the food processor bowl.

Add the remaining basil to the bowl and continue to blend until you form a uniform paste. Again, stop as necessary to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

With the processor running, stream in olive oil. Less oil will make the pesto easier to spread for toast or pizza. More oil will make a thinner pesto , better for dressing pasta or flavoring sauces.

An overhead view of a jar of pesto on a white background. End photo ID.

Continue blending until the oil is thoroughly incorporated into the basil and the pesto. It shouldn't be perfectly smooth - there should be a slight texture to it. Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl often. Taste and adjust seasoning as you go - i find that a little more salt helps the flavor.

Basil is a fragile herb, and pesto will start to brown quickly. It's best to use it right away. Although it may begin to darken after a day or two, it will still taste fresh and delicious for about a week. To store, pour a thin layer of olive oil over the surface and refrigerate. It can also be frozen for later use (it keeps for about four months in the freezer.) Remember to bring it to room temperature before using.

A completed half pint jar of pesto with a silver lid on a white background. End photo ID.

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