Homemade Basil Pesto

I may not have any Italian roots, but I sure love a heaping bowl of warm linguine with homemade basil pesto when the weather starts to cool down.  Sure, you could go out to your local grocery store and snag a jar of pesto that would be quite delicious, but the satisfaction and flavor that comes from creating your own, is irreplaceable.

I decided to focus today’s post on a simple, affordable, and traditional basil pesto recipe.  All of the ingredients needed that I will list below, are obtainable at most grocery stores, including Wegmans, Tops, and Walmart.  Shall we get started?

Here’s what you will need to make 1 cup of your very own basil pesto…

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 freshly grated Pecorino cheese

Each of these ingredients are quite simple and some might even be found in your pantry at home.  If you are unable to obtain pine nuts (they are sometimes a little pricey), feel free to substitute almonds, cashews, or walnuts.  Also, if your local grocery store just so happens to be lacking in the cheese department, substitute grated Parmesan cheese for the freshly grated Pecorino.

In terms of utensils, all you will need is:

  • Chopping knife
  • Cutting board
  • Medium size mixing bowl
  • Whisk

If you want to keep things simple, put aside the knifes and bowls, and substitute all of these utensils for a food processor.  If you choose to take this route, combine the garlic, basil, and pine nuts in the food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.  Add 1/2 cup of the oil and continue to pulse until fully incorporated.  Sprinkle in your desired amount of salt and pepper.  If you are planning on utilizing the pesto immediately, add in the remaining oil and pulse until smooth.  Transfer to a serving bowl and stir in the cheese.

If you want to take a more old fashioned road of preparation, begin by finely mincing your garlic cloves and place in a medium sized bowl.  Finely chop the basil, almost to the point where it begins to form its own paste.  Combine with the garlic.  Lastly, finely chop the pine nuts to the desired size.  Mix together the garlic, basil and nuts, while also slowly incorporating the olive oil.  If you have a fresh block of Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, grate to the desired size into the bowl.  If your cheese is pre-grated, simply pour to combine with the garlic, basil, nut, and olive oil mixture.  Stir in the cheese and serve.

Typically, I enjoy putting my homemade pesto on linguine pasta (store bought, in the box.. no need to get fancy and make it yourself).  I also enjoy pesto on other types of pasta, ravioli, and even crostini toasts.  This simple dish is all you need to spice up a family dinner or wow your guests at a small gathering.

If you are not planning on using your pesto immediately, transfer to an air tight container or pour into ice cube trays, then place in a freezer bag.  You can freeze your pesto for up to 3 months.  I personally prefer freezing it in the ice cube trays because you can pop out a cube of pesto and it is the perfect amount for a single serving of pasta. 🙂

I hope you all enjoy this recipe and stay tuned for more coming your way soon!

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Artichoke and Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

My all time FAVORITE food is a mushroom.  I know a lot of you are probably like “ewwww, gross, fungus”, but NO you are wrong.  Mushrooms are a gift from the gods and for those of you who are mushroom fans, this is a recipe that you will be sure to love.  Another food that takes a close second to mushrooms, are artichokes.  Who doesn’t love a delicious cheesy artichoke dip?  This recipe basically takes mushroom caps and stuffs them with a cheesy artichoke mixture and then bakes them to perfection.  Although it may seem complicated, this recipe requires hardly any ingredients and steps to prepare.  Before you know it, you’ll be pulling these guys out of the oven and popping ’em into your mouth.  Let’s get started!

Ingredients:

  • 24 large white mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, for drizzling
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cans sliced or quartered artichoke hearts
  • 2 cloves minced garlic (or about 1 tsp jarred minced garlic)
  • Pinch dried thyme
  • Handful grated Parmesan
  • Handful parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tub shredded Asiago cheese, 8 ounces (or shredded mozzarella)

Directions:

First start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees.  You’re going to want to brush the dirt off of the mushrooms.  You can do this simply by taking a damp paper towel and gently wiping them off.  After they are cleaned, carefully pop the stems out of each cap, creating a cavity that will hold your artichoke mixture.  Place the caps in a large bowl and drizzle in your olive oil to evenly coat the mushrooms, and then scatter them round-side-up onto a cookie sheet.  Roast these guys for about 10 minutes.  After you pull them out, season the caps with salt and pepper and flip over.  Place the pan aside while you prepare the stuffing.

Drain your cans of artichokes and then chop them into smaller pieces to make them easier to eat and easier to fit into the caps.  Using the same bowl as before, toss the artichokes with a drizzle of olive oil, garlic, thyme, grated Parmesan cheese, and parsley.  One the mixture is evenly incorporated, generously fill the mushroom caps, mounding the filling up.  Top the artichoke mixtures with the shredded Asiago/mozzarella cheese.  Return the pan to the oven and cook the mushrooms for another 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the filling has set.  As soon as they look beautiful and gooey, pull them out and set aside to cool only for a minute or so.  Once they reach the temperature where they won’t burn your tongue off, they are all set and ready to eat.

These stuffed mushrooms are such a wonderful appetizer for any meal, party, holiday, etc.  It helps that they are also extremely easy to make.  Even if you aren’t a huge mushroom fan, I highly suggest giving them a shot.  Another great thing about these little guys, is that they heat up incredibly!  I know that the idea of re-heating a stuffed mushroom sounds a bit odd, but trust me.. if you have any leftovers, just throw them on a pan and bake them in the oven for about 5 minutes at 400 degrees or even simply throw them in the microwave for about 2 minutes.  Either way comes out equally delicious.   This recipe has always proven to be a crowd favorite for me and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!