Making & Freezing Pesto

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I love pesto! This is a variation from my mom’s original recipe that I enjoyed growing up. We always made huge batches each summer to freeze for the winter. The secret to freezing pesto is to use less olive oil initially and add a bit more when thawing the pesto later. You can add the cheese before or after freezing as well, but I prefer adding it before.

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Ingredients:
1/4 – 1/3 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic
3 Tablespoons walnuts
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
2 cups basil leaves, tightly packed
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Directions:

1. Separate leaves from stems of your fresh cut basil.  This can be quite time consuming, but well worth it since the flavor is best from the leaves and adding stems can make it bitter.  Wash you leaves and pat dry, or use a salad spinner to remove the excess water.

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2. Gather your ingredients.  Finely grate your Parmesan cheese (i prefer using fresh grated opposed to the pre-grated packed Parmesan for better flavor).

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3. Add all measured ingredients into your mixer.  Someday I hope to get a nice Cuisinart mixer, but for now I rely on my trusty bullet blender to get the job done :) Being that this is a tight fit, I only add 1 cup of the basil at first, and the other cup once most of the ingredients are emulsified.

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4. Continue blending until nice and smooth.  I like to use a spoon to mix it around and check that all nuts, garlic and leaves are completely blended before calling it done.  Nothing worse that biting into a whole walnut unexpectedly!  The addition of lemon juice helps to keep the pesto bright green, otherwise it with start to darken within minutes of being blended.

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5. Spoon your pesto into ice cube trays.  Cover each tray with plastic wrap and place in the freezer over night.  Once the pesto cubes are frozen, you can pop them out into a plastic bag or Tupperware and store in the freezer for up to a year.

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6. When ready to use, I simply pop a few cubes into a microwave safe mug (depending on the amount of pesto I need) and add a drizzle of olive oil.  Microwave for 30-60 seconds to melt the pesto ans stir thoroughly.  So great and easy to have fresh pesto year round!

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