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Basil-Spinach Pesto

Friday, July 25th, 2014

Basil is the one plant that seems to grow in my small garden plot…even when there is too much sunshine…or too much rain.  I can cut my basil severely during one garden visit and return a week later to find that this fragrant herb has returned to its “bush-like” state, waiting to be trimmed again. The blessing of an abundance of basil is the opportunity to create lots of smooth, bright green pesto, which can easily be frozen in small batches to use in creating light sauces that embrace…instead of smothering your choice of pasta. In contrast to the large amount of olive oil found in commercial pesto, the recipe I have developed uses a mixture of chicken or vegetable cooking stock paired with olive oil to create a creamy consistency. Pairing fresh spinach with the basil leaves adds extra food value, but does not over-power the delicate sweetness of the fresh basil. I also use chopped walnuts, which are less expensive and have less fat than traditionally used pine nuts. You will also notice that grated parmesan will be found at the end of the ingredient list.  If you plan to consume the fresh pesto within 2-3 days, add the grated parmesan as you make the pesto.  However, if you plan to freeze the pesto for later use, do not add parmesan cheese as you are mixing the pesto ingredients. Pesto that is frozen with parmesan cheese as an ingredient becomes “lumpy” when it is thawed and mixed with other liquids to make a sauce. Wait to add freshly grated parmesan cheese as you heat the pesto to blend with cream, milk or pasta water to create a delicious, light sauce for your favorite pasta.

Basil-Spinach Pesto

3 ounces fresh basil leaves (approximately 2 1/4 cups)
3 ounces fresh spinach leaves, stems removed (approximately 3 cups)
leaves from 6 sprigs of Italian, flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/4 cup low sodium chicken or vegetable cooking stock or broth
3 – 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 – 4 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Wash and drain the basil, spinach and parsley leaves, then wrap in a clean kitchen towel to absorb any excess moisture. Set aside.
Place the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add the drained basil, spinach and parsley leaves and the salt and pepper, and process until finely chopped.
Pour the chicken or vegetable cooking stock and 3 tablespoons olive oil over the chopped leaves and pulse until blended and the mixture is becoming a smooth, somewhat thin, paste. If the mixture seems a bit too dry, add the additional tablespoon of olive oil to achieve a smoother texture.
If you plan to use your fresh pesto within 2 – 3 days, add 3 – 4 tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan cheese to achieve a creamy consistency.  However, if you plan to freeze your pesto, do not add the parmesan cheese to the mixture prior to freezing.
(Makes approximately 10 ounces of pesto)

To create Pesto Sauce for 4 servings of pasta:
4 tablespoons pesto sauce
3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons whole or 2% milk or water remaining after cooking pasta (pasta water)

Blend the pesto sauce, parmesan cheese and milk or pasta water in a large skillet over low heat. Stir in cooked, drained pasta and toss to blend with the pesto sauce mixture.
Garnish with additional freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve immediately.


One Response to “Basil-Spinach Pesto”

  1. Rose Hood Says:

    Yummy! Thanks so much! Very much enjoyed the great article about you in the August issue of O Henry Magazine in Greensboro.