Basil Pesto in bulk
I have a mountain of basil and I'd like to make copious amounts of pesto. I usually eyeball quantities but with this much (I literally have nearly a pillowcase full) I'm looking for a recipe based on weight and not "cups"/ "bunches", etc...
Does anyone have a commercial recipe?
No recipe, but I would just use as much oil as needed to get the right consistency. But most importantly, if you're going to freeze, it's best to leave out the pine nuts, as they don't freeze well. In the past I've frozen pesto in ice cube trays, then saved in a Ziploc. NIce for portioning out.
I've been freezing homemade pesto for years and I always add the pinenuts. Never had a problem with it. I do leave out the cheese, though, and add that after I've defrosted the pesto cubes.
I use the CI pesto recipe minus the parsley. It measures in cups but I find that I can only fit 2 recipes worth into my 11 cup processor anyhow. Yes, it's a pain to measure 4 cups of basil but I can't imagine it would be any more fun to weigh it out.
I too have copious amounts of basil coming in. I don't have a recipe but what I do is:
Fill my processor nearly to the top with leaves
Throw in several roasted garlic cloves
Throw in a handful of toasted pine nuts
Throw in a handful of rough shredded parmesan or romano
Add several generous grinds of black pepper
Put on the lid
Pulse several times
Turn on full speed and add olive oil in a steady stream until I see the pesto begin to take on a paste texture
Stop processor and remove lid to check texture and taste for seasonings
Adjust seasonings if necessary
Place lid back on and whiz to mix in adjustments and add more oil if necessary.
Add salt only at the end if needed. I find the cheese provides enough salt on its own
Repeat as needed (both tastings and batches until leaves are used up)
I then freeze it in small plastic (4 oz) snack containers. I'm not into the ice cube method, I prefer the containers because they stack nicely in the freezer and an ice cube or two is just not enough pesto for us. Never have had a problem with freezing it with pine nuts and cheese already mixed in.
Blanching the leaves, then shocking in an ice bath keeps the pesto from discoloring. I didn't believe this when I heard it, but it works, now I do it every time I make pesto.
I, too, have been making and freezing pesto for years, and just make my recipe, including all cheese, nuts, etc. and freeze with a thin layer of oil added to the top (which gets discarded upon use), and have never had a problem with off flavors. Maybe it's because I use canning jars.
Heres the method I usually use for making pesto, the small recipe first then the bulk method for the food processor or blender.(credit to Ed Giobbi and marcella H)
Recipe to serve 6:
for making the paste:
2 cups fresh basil leaves (no stems or flowers or little top stem leaves- when basil blooms, it gets bitter), gently packed.
handful of parsley leaves (to accentuate green color)
2 tbsp pine nuts
2 cloves garlic. peeled and cut roughly
1/2 cup olive oil
for adding when the dish is assembled:
1/2 c freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano or grana padano cheese
2 tbsp freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
salt to taste
Put the garlic cloves in the blender or food processer and chop, then add the basil and parsley, pine nuts on top (weigh it down) start the motor, and add oil blending gradually until a paste forms and all the leaves are smoothly incorporated - it will still be grainy looking but no big pieces of anything.. You may need to scrape down the sides a bit before this happens.
When you are ready for use, stir in the cheeses and salt to taste - some butter or ricotta can be added if liked.
The pesto can be served with dry or fresh pasta, and is particularly good when some thinly sliced potatoes and frenched green beans are added to the pasta while cooking.
Bulk method: I usually make this in bulk without measuring the leaves - first put into blender or processor 4-6 cloves of garlic, chop, then stuff the machine full of basil leaves, add a large handful of the parsley and a cpl handfuls of the pine nuts and start the motor. Add oil slowly - as much as needed until it amalgamates into a nice paste
Storage - The usual way to prevent oxidation (blackening) and spoilage is to cover the finished pesto with olive oil.I usually pack the pesto into small plastic freezer boxes - after it is solidified sufficiently, I add a thin layer of olive oil. Recently I have covered the top before freezing with plastic wrap which I remove to add the olive oil. We just cut slices off these cubes to use. You can also store in refrig, with a good covering of olive oil, but you have to make sure that the jar is clean and that the pesto is recovered with oil after use- pesto smeared down the side of the jar will cause spoilage and oxidation.
Okay- I foolishly failed to take advantage of resources right under my nose. I consulted Peterson's book "Sauces" (he's just short of being the Messiah in cookery IMO) and he had a commercial-style recipe that yields roughly a quart. He also is adamant that olive oil (especially green olive oils) and blenders / food processors are not a good combination. Philosophy being that the violent action of the blades breaks down vegetable compounds yielding bitter results. I agree tentatively from perceived experience but am not convinced without doing a real comparative study.
Okay- on to the recipe:
Basil Leaves 1lb or 500gms
garlic cloves 5
toasted pine nuts 3 tbls 45gms
course salt 1 tbls 15gms
parmesan 8oz 250gms
ev olive oil 1 cup 250 millileters
make sure basil is dry, blend all ingredients except oil.
work in oo post facto with a pestle or wooden spoon
I haven't made it yet- and boy that looks like a lot of cheese!
pesto=expensive ... but it's luxurious stuff, isn't it?
Peterson is indeed a very reliable resource on technique. I would only caution that the basil that most Americans use is often so harsh that I bet it tends to obscure any changes in the flavorings of the oil. (I am happy with my variegated basil that does not bloom, and thus has a somewhat gentler flavor, though not as refined as Ligurian basil seems to be.) Also, the palates of many Americans are much more attuned to bold and coarse flavors rather than subtle flavors, so I suspect Peterson's insights will not resonate with many of our palates (even mine - I make no pretense to having a particularly subtle palate, despite supertaster burdens).
Anyway, this month is the 10th anniversary of the insightful Corby Kummer piece on pesto by hand, and now that the Atlantic Monthly has removed the old firewall, it's again available for public consultation: