Growing up I knew nothing about basil. I never had any dishes that had basil in them and I never remember even knowing what basil was as a child. It was when I started to date my husband 12 years ago that this herb spoke to me through my mother-in-law's cooking. She used it in many dishes but the one I enjoyed most was her basil pesto sauce.
When I was 17 I remember sitting down to a magnificent piece of filet mignon that my mother in law had grilled...it was cooked to medium/medium rare (I also had never feasted on meat that was not well done growing up). The filet was delicious...I remember tasting the juices and wondering why I had never had a steak this good! On the side of the filet was a bed of thin fettuccine covered in bright grass green basil pesto sauce. I thought for sure I would not like it as I thought a sauce made from an herb seemed odd. As I took my first bite I was in HEAVEN! The flavors of the sweet basil, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, romano cheese and pine nuts danced in my mouth. It became my favorite dish that very instant. The pesto pasta paired with the juicy filet was the perfect combination. This dish along with many others my mother in law made for us growing up truly inspired my passion for food and cooking. I am eternally grateful to have her in my life not only as a wonderful mother-in-law...but also as a cooking partner to whom I can go to for questions and advice.
To this day my husband and I love eating my mother-in-law's basil pesto...it is probably our favorite summer dish. I always serve it with filet and either a side of cucumbers and tomatoes or tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and torn basil leaves.
Another reason this dish is so special to me is because it was the meal I ate before I gave birth to my first son Jack three years ago! I also cook it for special occassions such as anniversaries, birthdays, having friends over...it is a great dish to make as it is quick, easy and amazingly delicious. It presents beautifully and when you take a bite you'll know why it's a favorite dish in our home!
I now plant organic basil in my backyard every year. My boys love picking it right off the plant and eating it raw. This herb is great for dressing up pasta salads, potato salads, veggie salads, vinaigrettes, pasta dishes and many more summer dishes. The best basil is Happy Valley Organic Basil...sold at Whole Foods. The leaves are small and sweet and so perfect for this pesto sauce. Nothing beats organic basil grown in your yard though!
Side Note: We are expecting our third baby 'Lily' in 5 weeks...so if you don't see a blog from me for awhile this is the reason :) I'll resume shortly!
*You will need a food processor
My Mother In Law's Basil Pesto Sauce (from 1977)
*Makes enough for about 1 pound of pasta
4 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cups pine nuts
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
1 cup grated romano cheese
1. Place basil, pine nuts and garlic in food processor and blend. Stop from time to time to scrape sides and bottom.
2. Add oil and blend.
3. Add cheese, pulsing until combined.
4. Place in container large enough to add some (about a laddle full) pasta water (I scoop it from pasta water right before pasta is done).
5. Serve after you add pasta water...best way to do this is to drain pasta...put it back into cooking pot off heat. Add a scoop of pesto and mix it all together. Serve pasta in dishes then add some more pesto on top. Add parmesan cheese if you'd like.
*I serve this over THIN FETTUCCINE....I find this is the best pasta for it. I love Whole Foods organic brand.