Freezing Pesto for Winter

Sweet basil
As the late summer days shorten and night temperatures cool, basil plants slow their growth. If you've kept your plants clipped back all summer, keeping them from going into flowering, then you likely have more basil than you can use. It's a good time to freeze some pesto for use during the winter.
Culinary herb bed where I grow 12 different varieties of basil.
It doesn't really matter which kinds of basil you use for pesto. I usually mix more than one variety, like sweet basil and lemon basil. Or Greek columnar and Thai basils. Purists use only sweet basil, but the important thing is to use whichever basil you have. Here's my recipe for freezing pesto.
Freezer Pesto

4 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons almonds or walnuts (you could use pine nuts, they're more expensive, but I like almonds better)
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

Put everything into the food processor and blend ingredients until smooth. Scrape the edges to make sure everything has been processed.
Pour the mixture into ice cube trays, filling each section. Freeze for 24 hours, then pop out the cubes into Zip-Lock bags and keep frozen.

Now the trick. When you are ready to use pesto, combine it with half Romano, half Parmesan cheese, freshly grated if possible. Since those cheeses don't freeze well, the flavor of your pesto will stay much fresher if you don't put the cheese in the pesto before freezing.

The end of summer also means the roses are blooming vigorously. This pesto doesn't freeze as well as plain basil pesto, but use it on fresh-cooked tortellini with a few shrimp or mushrooms added.

Rose and Basil Pesto
Roses and basil taste great together!

2 cups fresh basil
1 cup fragrant *rose petals
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup pine nuts (I prefer walnuts)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon food grade rose water
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (don't substitute bottled juice) 
1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/4 cup Romano cheese, freshly grated
Salt, optional

Peel and coarsely chop garlic, then add rose petals, basil, nuts and olive oil in food processor. Pulse blend until everything is well pulverized.
Add remaining ingredients and mix well. This can be stored for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

*If you aren't sure what roses you can use, visit my YouTube video for tips on using roses in food.

Thai basil, in need of having the flowering spikes removed.

The other crop from the garden in excess this time of year are zucchinis. Here's a way to use up more basil with zucchinis to make zucchini pesto bread. Thai basil is good in this, but so is lemon basil or any kind you have on hand.

 Zucchini Pesto Bread
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1/2 cup basil pesto

1 stick butter, melted, divided

3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup grated zucchini

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 5 by 3-inch loaf pan with butter.

Combine the eggs, ricotta, pesto, and 4 tablespoons of the melted butter in a mixing bowl, mixing well. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and stir to combine. Add the grated zucchini to the flour mixture and stir to coat the zucchini.

Combine the flour-zucchini mixture to the egg-cheese-pesto concoction, and mix well. This will be a fairly thick mixture so be sure to stir it together well.

Transfer the dough to the loaf pan and top with the remaining 4 tablespoons of melted butter. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean, about 55 minutes to 1 hour. Cool the bread in the loaf pan on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes before removing the loaf from the pan.

The Zucchini Pesto Bread can be sliced and used for grilled Provolone cheese sandwiches, or for any kind of sandwich bread. Top slices with very thin slices of tomatoes and grated Parmesan cheese toast under the broiler. This bread also freezes well.


FlowerLady said...

Thanks for these pesto recipes. I look forward to making some.

Have a great weekend ~ FlowerLady

lemonverbenalady said...

OMG, the zucchini pesto bread recipe sounds delicious, Jim! Thanks for sharing your brilliant herbal mind and recipes with all of us! xxoo Nancy

Carol said...

Oh so yummy!!

Rosemary said...

Just took a loaf of the Zucchini pesto bread out of the oven... it smells divine, and love the color! Can't wait to try it with dinner tonight! Thanks for the recipe.