Basil Pesto with Almonds: We grow our own basil in the garden, but always have more than we can use right away. Making this easy pesto recipe solves this quandry, and allows us to have this delightful condiment on hand. It freezes really well, and adds a boost of basil and garlic flavor to anything you use it with.
We always love to make a big batch of this with the harvest from our garden.
The traditional Italian recipe for this versatile condiment utilizes pine nuts for richness and as a binder. Not only are pine nuts expensive, but they are very rich and oily. After experimenting with many different alternatives, we've found that almonds provide the best nutty backbone desired. The real star of the show is fresh basil, and almonds just don't compete as much with it's flavor, and we think that you'll agree.
- Garlic - Fresh, whole cloves are a must for this recipe, the flavor and consistency will not be the same with anything else.
- Almonds - We chose to use roasted nuts with the skin on, but really the only absolute rule here is to not use the salted ones, so the end result isn't too salty.
- Basil - As fresh as possible. The whole point of making this herbaceous condiment is to preserve this delicacy.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil - When making an Italian recipe, why not use Italian oil?
- Lemon - The acid provided by the juice brightens and accentuates the flavors, and the zest provides a perfect floral aroma.
- Parmesan Cheese - The king of aged cheeses. Other types can of course be used as a substitute, but this is the classic.
- Salt - The transformative effect of salt is expecially pronounced in basil pesto, skipping it makes the flavors somewhat flat.
See recipe card for quantities.
Step One - Assembly
Peel your garlic cloves, pick the basil from the stems, combine the oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, cheese, salt and pepper, and almonds in your blender cup, (Notes about using a food processor instead to follow).
Add the basil leaves
Step Two - Blending
Process in your blender, pausing to stir the ingredients together. This will assist n creating a smooth texture more quickly and efficiently. The faster this all comes together, the fresher it will taste, and look, (see our "chef tip" below).
Once this vortex appears, and the paste is uniformly pureed, you're done! Package and refrigerate or freeze right away.
We like to use our blender for this recipe. We love the smooth paste that it creates, (pesto in Italian translates to the word paste in English). If you would like something more rustic and course, (or if you don't have a blender), a food processor is fine! Just keep in mind that the blades in a food processor will bruise the basil a little more, and therefore will result in a darker green finished product. Shred the cheese, or it will not incorporate well.
Given that pesto is only really defined culinarily as a paste, the variations on this theme are actually limited only by the imagination.
- Cilantro - this leafy fresh herb can easily be made into a southwestern style condiment, with chilies, lime and cumin, or Asian, with ginger, sesame, and soy.
- Sun dried Tomato - with oregano, walnuts, maybe pecorino cheese, what's not to like?
- Kale - a great way to "sneak" this super-food into your diet, pair it with cashews for a healthful protein kick!
Store tightly sealed in the refrigerator for up to ten days. We usually only refrigerate the amount that we have definite plans for. The rest freezes (and thaws!), incredibly well, so we prefer to do so in small amounts, making it convenient to use whenever we would like.
Be careful not too process this almond basil pesto for too long. The blender makes a lovely puree very quickly, but letting it go for even a tiny bit past that point can cause the heat from the motor to darken the basil and ruin the vibrant flavors.
This is a garlic in oil preparation. As such, it MUST be refrigerated, or it can harbor botulism bacteria, which is extremely dangerous. The pesto that is found at room temperature in the grocery store has been specially processed to avoid this danger, and still must be refrigerated after opening.
Garden Fresh Basil Pesto With Almonds
- 1 Blender or food processor
- 1 Cutting Board
- 1 Chef Knife
- 1 Scale
- 1 Rubber Spatula
- 1 micro plane for zesting the lemons
- 1 citrus juicer a fork works well if you don't have a juicer
- 1 sheet of parchment paper
- 1 Sheet pan
- 8 oz. fresh basil leaves
- 4 oz. roasted whole almonds
- 6 oz. cheese parmesan, grated
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 large lemons zested and juiced
- 2 cups olive oil
- 4 large cloves fresh garlic
- Remove basil leaves from the stems, peel the garlic, and cut up the Parmesan cheese into small chunks
- Place the almonds on to a parchment paper lined sheet pan, into a preheated 350℉ oven (or toaster oven) for about 15 minutes, when you can smell them they are done. Place to the side to cool
- Juice and zest the lemons into the blender cup or the bowl of the food processor, and add the olive oil
- Add the almonds, garlic cloves, cheese chunks, and salt and black pepper to the oil and lemon juice
- Blend on the crush ice setting for a few minutes, then stop and add the basil leaves
- Continue blending until a smooth paste begins to form
- Once the mixture is smooth stop blending (you may have to add a bit more olive oil to adjust the texture)
- Using a rubber spatula (making sure to get every drop out of the blender cup or processor bowl!) place the pesto into desired containers for storage