I remember last year going to the small chain restaurant, Nothing but Noodles, with some girl friends and ordering bowtie or farfalle pasta with pesto. I am pretty sure that it wasn't my first introduction to pesto, but from that night on I was absolutely hooked. Its combination of sharp pepper-yness from the basil and richness from the olive oil and the subtle nutty flavor the pine nuts contribute are wonderfully balanced and a wake up for your taste buds. I grew some basil last year, so I made some pesto after that. I couldn't wait until my basil plant was leafy enough to make more, and Monday my day had come!
While you can purchase enough basil to make pesto, it would make your dish quite expensive. I'd suggest growing your own or finding a friend who grows basil and get leaves from them. For this recipe, you'll need two fairly tightly packed cups of basil leaves. Pine nuts are also somewhat newer in the grocery stores of rural NC, but you should be able to find them in larger stores. The best price I've found is at Trader Joe's. If you don't want to fork over the money for those, you can sub in walnuts.
The preparation is very simple; all you need is a food processor, and if you want to do a little pre-food processor prep, a knife.
If you're not very familiar with pesto, it has a variety of applications! Besides being a pasta sauce, it can be a sandwich spread or topping (think of it taking the place of mayo) or it can be mixed with mayo or sour cream for an interesting binder for chicken/pasta salad or a dip. Just google pesto and you'll get the idea.
makes approx. 1 cup pesto
2 cups packed basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan) cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
If you want, mince the garlic before placing in the bowl of your food processor. Add all the ingredients except olive oil and pulse until coarsely chopped. Turn the food processor on and slowly stream in the oil until the pesto mixture is a smooth, sort of thick paste.
Use immediately or store in small batches in air tight containers in your fridge for 3-4 days or freeze in small batches (an ice cube tray works great here) for up to 3 months.