A not-so-very pretty picture of a very beautiful sauce.
I love pesto. I was first introduced to it more than two decades ago and since then its popularity has really exploded in the USA. These days you can find it in most supermarkets. Unfortunately, even the more natural brands often use walnuts or another nut in place of the pine nuts I love so well, and sometimes they use a non-traditional oil such as canola oil in place of olive oil. At Trader Joe's yesterday the jarred pesto was made with cashews and the refrigerated pesto was made with walnuts; I can't eat cashews or walnuts, ugh.
It's okay though, because pesto is so very easy to make. I grabbed a basil plant (that is how TJs sells fresh basil), a hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a bag of toasted pine nuts, knowing that I had lemon and olive oil at home.
This evening I whipped up a batch of fresh pesto in my little Oskar Jr. food processor (from 1988). I looked at recipes and decided that as usual, I would wing it. I cleaned the basil, stripped the leaves from the stems (maybe 2 C.) and added them to the food processor bowl, then added some pine nuts (1/4 C.). I gave these a whir, added about 1/2 C. extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 C. grated parmesan, kosher salt, and a few grinding of fresh pepper, and whirred again. I wasn't happy with the consistency so I added more cheese and nuts, plus a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. One last whir and it was good to go. I put it in a jar and added a drizzle of olive oil to help keep it fresh in the refrigerator.
Pesto is good for so much more than pasta. I love it on pizza (hence the decision to make it at all) and also on baked potatoes and even rice. I stir it into plain risotto, add it to soups, and dollop it in salads. Of course, it's great as a marinade for fish and makes a delicious sauce for chicken. It's like having food insurance in the refrigerator, and you can also freeze it (although I usually freeze it without the cheese or nuts).
I leave the garlic out of my pesto; I have a child who exudes garlic from his pores every time he eats it and honestly it just isn't worth it.