If you are an exacting kind of person then I have included Stephanie Alexander’s amounts in brackets for each ingredient. I feel my way through and taste test at the end.
Salt My current preference is for Himalayan which is high in minerals.
Olive Oil I like to use a good quality Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil like Cobram Estate. (1/2 cup)
Pine nuts (3 tablespoons)
Basil Washed, spun, in salad spinner, leaves picked and stems discarded. (1 well-packed cup)
Garlic (2 cloves)
Toast the pine nuts in a heavy based frying pan. This is not a time for multi tasking, but a time to be Zen. It is very easy to burn pine nuts if you get distracted. They just need to be very lightly browned. Allow pine nuts to cool completely before blending, or they can spoil the tender basil leaves.
Place the basil leaves in a food processor or you can use a mortar and pestle.
Add olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and salt to taste.
Blend to a desired smooth consistency. If using a mortar and pestle it can be good to use coarse rock salt, which will help bruise the basil. This rustic looking pesto has fantastic flavour and is no second best!
If you want to keep it in the fridge for a week or so, place pesto in a glass jar and add a bit of olive oil to the top. I find mine does loose a bit of its rich green colour but is still fine to eat for at least a week.
If you are cooking it straight away you may wish to stir in grated parmesan cheese now.
If you want to freeze some, scrape it into a small plastic container or into ice cube trays. After it has sufficiently frozen you can remove the cubes from the ice tray and store them all in a larger container, perhaps separated with kitchen paper but they are easy to separate. (I always remove one portion to freeze from each batch made, as it freezes well and makes a fabulous winter treat when basil is no longer readily available..)
You can definitely improvise with pesto, using other herbs like parsley, coriander, even spinach leaves, as well as different nuts like cashews, walnuts and pistachios.
Pesto is a great way to consume raw garlic if you are coming down with an infection. It is not just for pasta but is great on toast or in sandwiches, in vegetarian lasagna, to build a rice or pasta salad, spread over lamb chops, steak, chicken, fish or tofu. If you are feeling really decadent you can even just eat it like a dip with dry biscuits.