Make Your Own Pesto

If basil is part of your herb garden, make pesto part of your pantry

Making pesto is a wonderful way to preserve the summer's basil harvest. Freezing it in ice cube trays or small freezer bags gives me just the right amount for pasta, soups, sauces and cheese spreads to brighten winter meals. I've created various recipes — other than traditional Italian pesto — by using different varieties of basil and unexpected ingredients.

My Purple Pesto features dark opal basil, rosemary, and sun-dried tomatoes; Asian-inspired High Thai Pesto includes Thai basil, peppers, ginger and peanuts; Luscious Lemon-Basil Pesto includes almonds.

Luscious Lemon-Basil Pesto

This pesto is especially delightful over grilled fish, shrimp, or chicken and is wonderful with rice, pasta, or steamed green beans.

  • 2 cups fresh lemon basil leaves, rinsed and dried
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/3 cup blanched almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process basil and garlic. Add almonds and cheese, then slowly add the olive oil. Process to get the desired consistency. Add more olive oil if desired. Makes about 1 cup.

Purple Pesto

I like to stuff this pesto under the skin of chicken breasts and melt it over grilled fish or chicken. It tastes fabulous tossed with fettuccine with more sun-dried tomatoes or used in a cheese torta garnished with additional purple basil sprigs.

  • 2 cups fresh Dark Opal or Purple Ruffles basil leaves, rinsed and dried
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried chiles

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process basil, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and parmesan. Slowly add the oil; add the rosemary and chiles. Blend to desired consistency. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

High Thai Pesto

The strong and spicy perfume and anise flavor of Thai basil makes this pesto taste exotic. Use this pesto as a condiment for shrimp and serve it on vermicelli noodles embellished with grated carrots, chopped green onions, bean sprouts and cucumbers.

  • 3/4 cup peanut oil
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 1-inch piece ginger root, peeled
  • 3 fresh Thai chiles, stemmed
  • 1 1/2 cups Thai basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime zest
  • 3/4 cup honey-roasted peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • salt to taste
  • crushed red pepper to taste

In a small bowl, combine peanut oil and sesame oil; set aside. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process garlic, ginger and Thai chiles. Slowly add the remaining ingredients to the food processor, except for the reserved oil mixture, and grind to a thick paste. Add the oil to achieve the desired consistency. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Last updated: 10/04/2023