First Frost Pesto

If you have an herb garden, you know how frost will kill delicate basil overnight. Don't waste those pungent leaves by letting them die. Instead, when that first frost warning comes, make pesto!

I pulled up my plants and cut off the roots, then covered with water.

Next, I pulled off all the leaves—getting everything healthy and green. My 10-ish basil plants yielded about one generously packed cup of basil leaves.

I followed my favorite 5-ingredient recipe for pesto, adapted from my memory of a Cook's Illustrated article from the 90s.

  • Basil leaves
  • Garlic cloves
  • Pine nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese (grated)

The amounts of everything depend completely on how much basil you have and how much you like garlic. Please wing it!

With this recipe, there are three important verbs for the key ingredients. Attend them well.

BLANCH the garlic.
TOAST the pine nuts.
BRUISE the basil.

I used 2 cloves of garlic for this amount of basil, and placed them in boiling water for 30 seconds, then ran under cold water to stop the cooking.

My assistant toasted about 1/2 cup of pine nuts by continually stirring them over medium heat until they started to brown and smell nice, then he pulled them off the heat to slow cooking.

I squeezed the basil leaves as I placed them into the food processor to release the oils and kickstart the pesto flavoring.

We added the garlic and pine nuts to the basil, and put the lid on.

More verbs: You want to BLEND and EMULSIFY at the same time, which means drizzling in the olive oil while the food processor is on. Aim for the thinnest stream possible, and stop and scrape the contents occasionally. Check consistency.

We like rather dry pesto so stopped adding oil earlyish, but you could keep going if you want to aim for a juicier mix.

When it's an even, fine consistency, scrape out all the pesto into a container. Then mix in the parmesan. We put in about half a cup of finely grated cheese (we always add more later when it's hot).

You can also skip the parmesan at this point for a vegan option or to add later. If you freeze your pesto, I suggest adding the cheese later once it's thawed.

We used our pesto on pasta, and also made pesto pizza on my NEW pizza stone (blog post to come!).

Do you make your own pesto? Do you live in a zone where your garden freezes--and how do you deal?