Yesterday I wrote that I was planning to make a pesto to use up most of my CSA basil. Now, I’ve never made pesto before and I’m not actually a big pesto fan, but something was inspiring me. I was determined to create something delicious. I considered what I don’t like about most pestos, I looked at the ingredients I had in my pantry and I came up with this recipe for roasted garlic and sunflower seed pesto. And it is both easy and deee-licious!
This version takes a little longer to prepare than a raw pesto, but the flavors are more subdued, the color is bright, and really it is not that much more work. I decided to use sunflower seeds instead of pine (pignoli) nuts, because 1) I had them and 2) they are a lot easier on the wallet.
First, get everything you need: foil, garlic, olive oil, salt, and basil. (Store your fresh basil in a vase with water, as you would fresh flowers. It lasts longer this way, plus it looks pretty.)
Now, let’s roast that garlic. Cut the stem end off the garlic, place it on a bit of tin foil and drizzle olive oil over it. Pop it in a 450-degree oven for about one hour.
While the garlic is roasting, pull off about 2 to 2.5 cups of basil leaves.
When the garlic is done roasting, take it out of the oven and let it cool. Now, get a pot of water boiling. We’re going to blanch the leaves. Are you ready? I promise, this is super easy and it will make the leaves blend smoother. Fill a bowl with ice water and keep it close to the stove. You’re going to need it to “shock” the blanched basil leaves.
One the water is at a rolling boil, dump the basil leaves in and leave them there for about 1 minute. (Sidenote: if you’re going to serve the pesto immediately after making it, just use this water to cook your pasta.)
Immediately place them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. You can use a slotted spoon for this.
Now, unwrap that delicious package of roasted garlic. This is why the pesto is so good (in my opinion). Roasting the garlic takes away that sharp, bitter taste that I dislike in most pestos.
Add the blanched basil leaves, the roasted sunflower seeds, and the roasted garlic to the bowl of your food processor. The garlic cloves should come out pretty easily, but you might have to help them along with your fingers.
Pulse until the mixture turns into a coarse meal that looks something like this (you will probably need to scrape down the sides a couple times):
Turn your food processor on and start drizzling in the olive oil until it reaches your desired consistency.
I like mine a little on the thicker side. It’s easy enough to thin with olive oil, and I like to have the option to use it as a sandwich spread.
Since it was approaching lunchtime when I made this yesterday, I had a great excuse to try it. I tossed it with some spaghetti, sprinkled on some Parmesan cheese, and I think I actually exclaimed, “Holy sh-t! This is is good!” This was remarkably close to my husband’s reaction, which was, “This doesn’t taste like pesto. This is good!”
Unfortunately, you cannot home can pesto. At least I couldn’t find a safe method to do so, and I’m not going to take chances. You can, however, freeze it. If you want to freeze it in a glass jar or plastic container, cover the pesto with a layer of olive oil and be sure to leave about 1/2-inch of head room for expansion. You can also freeze it in tablespoon-sized portions to add to soups, stews, or just when you want an individual portion. The easiest way to do this is in an ice cube tray. Because we have an ice maker on our fridge, the only ice cube trays I have are fun shapes (usually for Jell-O jigglers). I decided to make pesto skulls:
So there you have it. My very long-winded explanation for a very simple recipe!
Roasted Garlic and Sunflower Pesto
2 c. fresh basil leaves
1 head of garlic
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 c. olive oil, plus extra for roasting garlic
pot of boiling water
bowl of ice water
salt to taste (optional)
Cut the stem off of a garlic clove and place it on the center of an aluminum foil square. Drizzle with olive oil, wrap tightly, and roast in a 450-degree oven for about 1 hour. When the garlic has finished roasting, start a pot of water boiling. Blanch 2 cups of basil leaves for approx. 1 minute. Immediately immerse leaves in ice water. Combine the blanched basil leaves, roasted garlic cloves, and sunflower seeds in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture forms a coarse meal. Start your food processor again and slowly pour in the olive oil until it reaches your desired texture.
Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. This freezes well.
Be sure to visit Sandra at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom to check out other delicious recipes!