Pesto Fresco

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There’s nothing I love more than fresh herbs, nature inspired palettes and quality time with loved ones. I’m inspired by the vivid flavors, aromas and colors that I find in my own gardens. I use my gardens to harvest food and decorations. This has been a family tradition for many years. Every summer, I gather my freshest herbs including dill, catnip, parsley and basil. My mother and I recently collected all of the colorful herbs from my garden in Sharon. Herbs are not only the star of a wonderful summer feast, they also create appropriately themed centerpieces and flourishes.

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If you could smell a blog post, this one would be sensational.

One of my favorite, simple dishes is basil pesto that we preserve, not just for summer enjoyment but for quick delicious meals throughout the year.

As the tradition goes, I start with basil harvested directly from my garden. Fresh herbs are always essential ingredients for any home-cooked meal, while they can bring the beauty of nature’s seasons to your table.

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Once I’ve assembled my herbs, I gather other basic ingredients including pungent garlic, authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano, pine nuts, tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil.  I then enlist the help of my team. Note my mother’s  t-shirt that elevates Sharon, CT to the likes of Rome, Paris and London. A sense of humor is always important in a kitchen!

We then wash, separate and stem the basil. Using a food processor, we combine all of the ingredients (see recipe below) to make the greenest, freshest pesto.  After the flavors commingle perfectly, we immediately preserve the pesto to lock in flavor.  Not all of the pesto is stored for later. Of course, we need to enjoy the herbs of our labor. By celebrating, I make a colorful pasta, with the pesto, and a fresh sprig of basil for garnish.

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The great thing about pesto is that it doesn’t reside in one form. It can be used in a variety of dishes including soups, salad dressings, dips, spreads and even pizza sauce. I love having access to fresh, summer flavors anytime throughout the year. In the pasta dish pictured above, I sautéed garlic and onions, then cherry tomatoes, in olive oil. Once these ingredients were ready, I stirred in the pesto and added the cubes of mozzarella shortly before serving (for a perfect texture). For a full recipe, please see below.

Newly picked herbs are important ingredients. I also like using the herbs as part of the table decoration–not every table needs a bouquet of flowers. Such details can tie together a perfect meal, while being inexpensive and readily available via Mother Nature. Nature gifts us seasonal beauty with natural colors and flavors, so why not use them to enhance your table? Summertime doesn’t feel the same without fresh, beautiful greens and time spent with loved ones. Delicious pesto doesn’t hurt either!

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Ingredients
4 cups fresh basil leaves (from about 3 large bunches)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino Sardo or Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
preparation

Combine first 4 ingredients in blender. Blend until paste forms, stopping often to push down basil. Add both cheeses and salt; blend until smooth. Transfer to small bowl. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Top with 1/2 inch olive oil and chill.)

As some of you requested, here is the recipe for the pasta sauce using the homemade pesto sauce.

Ingredients: serves 4
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small to medium onion
red pepper flakes to taste
2 pints cherry tomatoes cut in half, you can use all red or mix red and yellow for a colorful sauce- I grow both in the garden
1 small  chicken bouillon cube to enhance flavor ( optional )
1/2 cup of pesto either homemade or a good quality store brand
1 cup of 1/2 inch cubed mozzarella
salt and pepper to taste
12 to 14 oz. pasta (your  choice)
serve with grated parmesan id you wish

Heat olive oil in a medium sized sauce pan on medium heat and sauté onion until translucent . Add red pepper flakes and bouillon and cook for 1 more minute.
Add cherry tomatoes and cook for 10 to 15 minutes and add pesto.  After flavors are incorporated, approximately another 5 minutes, fold in mozzarella. Immediately toss with pasta. garnish with a beautiful sprig of basil and serve. Serve with grated parmesan if you wish.

34 thoughts on “Pesto Fresco

  1. Love your mother’s shirt!
    Looks like everyone is prepping at a white marble countertop. How do you keep it looking great? I’m changing out my countertops from granite to marble and everyone is trying to talk me out of it.
    Your photos are simply yummy!!

      • HI Terry,
        I have used honed white Carrara marble in all of my houses —I like it because it looks old,timeless and yet simple and clean. That said it does stain some– I just use something like soft scrub—- it does stain over time but you can have it slightly rehoned which is what I am getting ready to do in the colorado kitchen.

  2. Beautiful photos! Pesto is such a summer classic and August is the perfect time of year for it since the tomatoes in the garden are bursting with flavor also.

  3. Hello Carolyne !
    The pesto sauce sounds delicious. Will you also send me your recipe for the pasta ? The ribbon pasta looks so pretty ! Thanks for brightening my life with your posts !

  4. Oh Carolyne! I’m absolutely drooling over your photos. I have a ton of basil, and do preserve it — the best part of summer, I say! But you have the perfect knack for arranging it and tempting us with your presentations. My heart would be most happy if you would share the pasta recipe you featured…..please? (Or is it perhaps in one of your books, every one of which I own?)
    Many thanks for the lovely taste of summer.

  5. Next best thing —I-am holding a sprig of basil whilst looking at the photos and imagining I am sitting at the table!
    It looks absoloutley delicious as always.

  6. Your pesto sounds so good. Can it be made without the cheese? How do you preserve it? Freeze?

    • hi Molly,
      Of course you can make it with out the cheese but it is not really pesto but we do make it that way and use it for a seasoning in soups and sauces.

  7. went online to amazon and bought every single one of your books, they have been a great inspiration for my gardens, cooking and decorating….

    • Thank you so much —it pleases me that you like my books. I am currently working on a new book about my gardens at Weatherstone which will hopefully be out in Fall 2015–cr

  8. Nothing better than the flavor of fresh herbs in the summer, nothing. A quick tip: Consider toasting the pine nuts in the over before using, until they show just the tiniest bit of color. The roasted/toasted flavor is much richer, deeper and multi-note compared to using them ‘raw’.

  9. Hello Carolyne,
    Could I please have your basil pasta recipe. It looks delish.
    Warm regards,
    Mitchell in Montreal.

  10. You mention that you preserved the balance of your recipe. Please let me know what method you used- freezing?
    Thank you.

  11. What beautiful photos you always send us, Carolyne!!
    I would like to know what type of camera do you use, as I, too, do take a lot of garden photos.

  12. I am so happy when I see your Posts. Your garden looks so great. The photos you take are so inviting , as if we were there to enjoy all the flowers and herbs. I truly admire the work you do and for sharing it with us. Looking forward to the new home photos. and posts. Once again thanks You are an inspiration to me.I have a very small cottage but still try to incorporate new ideas.

  13. I tried your recipe today with home grown basil, Umbrian olive oil, and the results are delicious. How did you make the tricolor pasta?
    Best, Robin in Umbria

    • Happy about that Robin—-how lucky you are to be in Umbria! I did not make the multicolored pasta —-too hard for me. You can buy it in any store that sells a large selection of pasta in Italy and specialty stores such as E-taly in New York City—it comes in many shapes and sizes. cr

      • By the way, I shared a {small} jar with all my Umbrian neighbors, and they were so impressed with the results. Sooooo, thank you. R in Umbria

  14. This is so inspiring, you always elevate everything that you touch. Thank you for the beautiful images and inspiration.
    Happy Late Summer to you,
    Kathysue

  15. We grow several varieties of basil plants in our flower gardens every summer. We dream all winter of Caprese. Thank you for your lovely photos and your pesto recipe. What a delightful way to hold on to summer.

  16. Fabulous garden! I love an elegant potager. I met Rosemary Verey several years ago and toured her gardens at Barnsley House, your garden reminds me of her attention to detail and her celebration of simple plants. Thank you.

  17. We moved in May, and I haven’t had time to get my garden going. So, I really miss not having my basil plants near! I’ve found they grow well in pots, so everyone can have them. To me, the heavenly scent of basil is the smell of summer! Thanks for sharing your bounty with me.

  18. Dear Carolyne,
    The garden is stunning. The mix of the white fencing with red brick is cooling amongst the green of your herbs and marigolds amongst them.
    I have never been a fan of pesto on pasta myself. But, your recipe wins me over. Now, I just need to be pushed to the stove.
    Best, Adrian Markocki
    ….p.s. you had mentioned in the prior blog the work of Mongiardino….WOW
    .

  19. Phenomenal dish…

    I saw a pin on pinterest that links to your page, lemon sorbet in a hollowed lemon peel; not finding it on your site Any chance it’s your post/recipe and you can post again? Thank you.

    • Thank you—-when I get back home, I am now in colorado I will look up the recipe. I believe it was not on my sight but in one of my earlier books. Basically what you do is find lemons with a nice shape cut a small piece off of the bottom of the lemon so it can stand on end. Then cut a larger piece off of the top which is the lid for the lemon shell. Take a small melon ball tool and scoop out all of the insides of the lemon, conserving them in a bowl. This fruit and juice will be the primary ingredient for the lemon sorbet. Make sure the scooped out lemon is nice and clean and place on a cookie sheet or a pan and place in freezer to freeze the lemon cups. Make the sorbet—that is the recipe that I do not have at hand but you can find one that appeals to you on line. After the sorbet is frozen spoon it into each of the cups place the little top back on and garnish with a mint leaf. I have also done a quicky version where I made the lemon bowls but instead of making the sorbet from scratch I bought a great quality lemon gelato and placed that in the cup and reserved the lemon juice for another recipe. The presentation is the main part of this dish. cr

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