Basil Pesto with Almonds – Tasty and filled with healthy fats, you can stir it into pasta, or use as a marinade, dip, or spread for sandwiches and wraps.
My garden is showing signs that summer is on its last leg. The tuberoses are blooming. My tomatoes are ripening at an alarming pace and I need to do something with them soon. And my basil keeps wanting to go to seed. Every morning or evening I go out, inspect my basil plants, and snip off those persistent seed heads.
I use basil a lot in my cooking. It’s a staple for me. Snip off a few leaves and serve them on top of heirloom tomato slices with fresh mozzarella. Make bruschetta with fresh tomatoes, garlic, and of course, basil. Dry it for use in the winter in all kinds of dishes. But when it’s at its prime in the summer, I like to make basil pesto with the fresh peppery leaves.
Basil pesto can be used in many different ways. Drop a dollop on top of a bowl of hot or cold whole-grain pasta. Spread it on a bread slice, instead of margarine or butter, when making sandwiches. Whisk it with some Greek yogurt for a quick salad dressing. Add it to a soup or use as a marinade for chicken or fish. Definitely versatile.
Why make it fresh when you can buy it in the store? Besides the awesome flavor of homemade basil pesto, there are several reasons. When you make it fresh you can:
- Bypass the extras that are sometimes added – like preservatives or sugar or extra salt
- Choose which oil you use – extra-virgin olive oil is traditional and provides healthy fats
- Opt to use a different kind of nut if you like – I use toasted almonds, which provide even more healthy fats
- Season it with a less salt and tailor it to suit your taste preferences.
One problem I had for a long time when I made pesto, was that it turned brown rather quickly. Even though it tasted fine, the nice green color would disappear as oxidation set in. I tried adding lemon juice (ascorbic acid), which helped a little bit. But my new favorite way to keep the bright green color going is to blanch the basil leaves before making the pesto. It’s quite simple and doesn’t take that much more time, and it leaves you with a beautiful looking basil pesto that still tastes amazing. Here’s the recipe:
Basil Pesto with Almonds
- 1/3 c. almonds toasted
- 3 c. lightly packed fresh basil leaves
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 3/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper optional
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt optional
- 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 350º F. Spread almonds out on a small baking sheet. Toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until almonds become fragrant and are toasted. Remove from oven immediately and pour almonds into a separate bowl to cool.
- Prepare a large bowl of ice water and a pan of boiling water. While almonds are in the oven, blanch basil leaves by immersing them a few at a time into the pan of boiling water for about 15 seconds until they turn bright green. Immediately remove them from the boiling water and plunge them into the bowl of ice water. When cool lay them out on the paper towel or clean dish towel to absorb any extra water. Gently pat dry.
- Toss almonds, basil leaves, and garlic into a food processor and process, or blend, until almonds are finely chopped and interspersed with the basil and garlic. Add olive oil, and salt and pepper (if using) and process till incorporated into the basil and almond mixture.
- Add parmesan cheese and blend to desired consistency. If freezing, do not add parmesan cheese until ready to use.
- Keep refrigerated.