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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.