Several basil sprigs (I use a Mediterranean sweet basil.)
Several parsley sprigs (I use an Italian flat-leaf parsley.) (Parsley is optional.)
Extra virgin olive oil
Note: It's best if the leaves are almost completely dry. It will concentrate the paste and reduce formation of ice crystals.
I subdue the strong basil flavor by using about half as much parsley as I do basil. I love the basil-parsley blend. To some, I am a sinner.
2 Mince the basil and parsley together.
Note: If you're working with several cups of leaves, a food processor does a great job of mincing. If you're working with just a few leaves, then a sharp chef's knife, a dishwasher-safe cutting board, and a finely-honed mincing technique will perform better. Even a dull knife, a plate, and a free-for-all chopping motion does a better job than one of these:
3 Transfer the minced herbs to a bowl. Blend in enough oil to make a paste. Spoon pesto paste into compartments of ice cube tray. Cover with plastic wrap, then with aluminum foil. Freeze overnight.
Note: For oil-to-herb proportions: I often end up with about 3/4 cup minced herb to which I add at least 1/4 cup olive oil. I used to scrimp with the oil but I found it protects the pesto in the freezer, keeping it greener and fresher-tasting.
Don't add salt before freezing. It will hasten the breakdown of plant cell walls, another fresh-taste depleter.
I also don't add garlic, cheese, etc. to this mix, but you can. I find it's easy enough to add later, producing a fresher-tasting and more phytonutrient-rich (especially in the case of garlic) pesto sauce.
4 Pop frozen cubes from tray and store in a freezer-safe bag or container in the freezer until ready to use.
Note: Cubes may be thawed in the refrigerator overnight. Or, my favorite, toss a couple frozen cubes into the microwave and heat for 2, 10-second intervals (no more, you don't want to cook the paste or it will lose its green color).
- 1 thawed pesto cube
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, pressed or very finely minced
- 2 tablespoons finely grated cheese (I use Locatelli, a hard sheep's milk cheese. Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, both from cow's milk, are also good.)
- 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts or walnuts, finely minced (optional)
- Pinch ground cayenne pepper (optional)
- Couple pinches black pepper
- Salt to taste