Everywhere I worked as a chef, we’ve had our own garden, and everywhere we’ve had a garden, we’ve grown basil. Keeping a garden is great because it pushes you to get more in tune with the weather and the world around you, something so many people are disconnected from now.
Spring is planting time, and fall is pesto time! Around September or October, before the first frost, we’d cut our basil plants off at the base and bring them inside to take off all the leaves and make this great sauce. It should be noted that the most common basil pesto is far from the only iteration of this, so I’ll offer up an alternative recipe with a spicy Southern Italian flare as well. You can use pesto to flavor red sauces, chicken, or as a sauce on its own over penne or your favorite pasta.
- 2 or 3 red peppers, roasted and rough chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, roasted
- ½ cup baby spinach
- ¼ cup goat cheese
- ⅓ cup pine nuts
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- salt & pepper to taste
- splash of white wine vinegar or hot sauce
- To roast the red peppers, if you have a grill or gas burners, take them one at a time by the stem and hold them over the heat until the skin blackens. Rotate so they cook evenly. If you don’t have a gas range or a grill, you can broil them on the top rack. Once they’re lightly blackened on all sides, plunge them into an ice bath. When they cool you can rub the skin off and then chop them.
- Combine all ingredients except the olive oil in a blender or food processor and begin to pulse.
- Slowly add in the olive oil. Until the mixture is a loose paste. You may have to stop blending to wipe down the walls of the blender with a spatula once or twice. This is a spicy sauce similar to an Arabiata but more versatile.
Traditional Pesto Recipe
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 2 cups basil leaves, packed
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- Combine all ingredients except the olive oil in a blender or food processor.
- Blend and slowly drizzle in the olive oil.
- Blend until a loose paste is achieved.
- This pesto will keep quite well in the fridge and can be frozen as well. It may separate, but this doesn’t mean it’s gone bad.