Make the most of summer basil with this incredibly simple pesto recipe.
One of the best things about prowling a farmers' market is finding big, beautiful bunches of herbs. Next time you see fresh basil, grab some to make this bright, lovely sauce. All you need is a food processor or blender, and a handful of inexpensive ingredients. By the time your pasta is cooked, your pesto will be ready.
Easy Artichoke Lemon Pesto Recipe:
- 1 large bunch of fresh Genovese or sweet basil
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 1 small (6-8 oz.) jar of grilled artichoke hearts in oil
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 lemon
- Salt to taste
- 3 T. extra virgin olive oil
If you have basil from the farmers' market, you're going to need to clean it really well. Soak it in a big bowl of cool water for about five minutes, then swish and drain. If you notice that the water was dirty, repeat until it is clean. Shake the basil dry and pat it gently with paper towels. Strip off the leaves, discarding any that are damaged or browning. Reserve a few for garnish.
In a food processor or blender, combine the basil, garlic, artichoke hearts (with the brine or oil), Parmesan cheese, and lemon juice. Pulse until it forms a chunky paste, then season with salt to taste. Continue to pulse and slowly pour in the olive oil to thin out the mixture. Adjust your seasoning with salt and Parmesan cheese, then you're done!
Because you used fresh basil, you want to use this pretty quickly. One batch is enough to coat about a pound of spaghetti, so double the recipe and keep it in the fridge if you want more for later.
This is a very light pesto, and you'll want to cook your pasta right before serving it. Instead of draining the noodles, put a few spoons of fresh pesto in a large mixing bowl and use tongs to transfer the pasta from the pot to the bowl. The little bit of pasta water will help coat everything with a gorgeous, fragrant sauce. Top with more Parmesan and garnish with the reserved basil leaves.
- Traditional pesto requires pine nuts, but they're pretty pricey. Don't worry, you won't miss them in this recipe.
- Use grilled artichoke hearts in oil if you can find them, but marinated artichoke hearts will work just fine. Taste the brine and make sure it's mellow, not too sour, before adding it to the food processor.
- Use the best cheese you can afford to finish the pasta. Save the shaky cheese for making the pesto—no one will know, and I won't tell!
- Serve with pasta on its own or with a bit of grilled chicken or fish. It has a very delicate flavor and would get lost on a plate with a steak.
- If you want to be really extra, you can grate a bit of the lemon zest on top of your pasta too. It will add a bit of zing to each bite.
**All photos by Sarina Petrocelly
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Do you have a favorite pesto recipe? What add-ins do you use? Let us know in the comments.
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