Large Batch Homemade Pesto

fresh pesto sauce

I planted basil in our garden this summer and was super excited when I discovered that I have enough to make a large batch of pesto, and freeze for the winter! I purchase the bulk pine nuts and Parmigiano Reggiano from Costco, which is so much more affordable than Whole Foods (Paycheck).  It is key to have a great food processor. I have a new “Breville Sous Chef Food Processor” that I received from my mother-in-law, that I absolutely love! Anyway, so here are the ingredients and the instructions.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound basil (9 oz leaves after removing stems)
  • ⅓ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 ½ cup fresh Parmesan Cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano)
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 Tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ cup pine nuts

Place the washed basil leaves, and oil in the food processor (using “S-Blade”), till minced, pausing occasionally to scrape in the basil on the sides. Add the cheese, garlic and salt and process until smooth. Add in the pine nuts at the end, you can make it as crunchy or smooth as you like. My son loves it chunky but my daughter likes it super smooth. You are now ready to place the pesto into ½ cup storage containers. Now you can freeze your batches. Thaw as needed, but please do not microwave. When you add to your pasta, please save some of the salted pasta water to thin out the pesto a little so it has a smooth and slightly liquid consistency.

Classic Italian Risotto

Classic Italian Risotto

Okay, since I’m mostly Swedish, I cannot claim to have a perfect Italian Risotto, but my psuedo-Italian husband can! He definitely “thinks” he’s Italian, especially since he spent a number of year in Italy. Being green-eyed and blond-haired, the Italians always questioned his origin… it’s actually Michigan! Nevertheless, after many years, I can honestly say he has mastered the classic Italian risotto. And according to my children, I am incapable of making his perfected recipe. I actually don’t mind handing over the kitchen to him once in a while, so HE can “slave over the hot stove”.

The key to an honest Risotto, is definitely the broth, (my recipe can be found here). You also need to make sure you use Arborio rice. It is an Italian short-grain rice, named after the town of Arborio, in the Po Valley, which is situated in the main growing region. When cooked, the rounded grains are firm, creamy, and chewy if cooked just right. The key is cooking then stirring, cooking then stirring, a labor of love for sure.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups finely chopped onions
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 2 cups of dry white wine
  • 5 cups of homemade broth
  • pinch of saffron strands
  • 2 cups of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Warm the broth in a pot on low heat, making sure it does not boil. In a large sauce pan on medium heat, add oil, butter then onions and sauté for several minutes until they become translucent. Add in the Aborio rice and stir to coat.  Now here comes the hard part, you are going to add in the liquid 1 cup at a time and stir to cook. Start with the wine, as you want this to cook down over time, then alternate with the broth. You’re going to keep adding in the liquid one cup at a time for at least 20 minutes, maybe more. The point is to add the liquid in small doses, and stir it as it absorbs. When the rice starts to get a little puffy you want add in the strands of saffron. Stir for a couple of minutes, and then start tasting it. You want the rice to be firm, but not hard in the center. Once you get the right consistency, get your warm plates and ladle ready, add in the parmesan cheese and stir. You might need to add a little salt at the end, but remember the parmesan cheese is quite salty. Now you ladle one large scoop onto each warm plate, and jiggle it around so flatten it out. Remember this is really rich, so please don’t make the portions too big. Think Italian size… not American portion. Sprinkle a little parmesan on top… Mangiare subito!

Crostini with Arugula, Cannellini Beans, and Chicken

crostini with beans and chicken

If you are looking for a healthy protein appetizer for the holidays, here is a fun little crostini with some lemon dressed arugula, cannellini beans (white kidney beans), organic chicken breast and slices of parmesan cheese. I actually mainly use organic ingredients for most of my dishes, including this one. I used the Eden organic brand beans as they pack them in bisphenol-A (BPA) free can linings. I also found a great canned organic chicken breast by Valley Fresh Organic White Chicken Breast or you can also use the breast from a baked chicken.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 tsp of sugar or ½ tsp of raw honey for the Paleo fans
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 1 can of organic Cannellini Beans (or white kidney beans)
  • 1 can (12.5 oz.) of organic chicken breast
  • ½ cup sliced Parmesan Cheese
  • 16 crostini (Make sure they are not too thick)

Mix the first 4 ingredients into a large bowl. Split the dressing in half.  Add in arugula to one bowl lightly toss. Add the beans, chicken and parmesan into the second bowl of dressing and toss. Add some salt and pepper to the bean and chicken mixture. Place a pinch of the arugula onto the crostini, then add a heaping tablespoon of the chicken and bean mixture. For decoration you can also add one slice of the parmesan on top of the chicken. If your crostinis are too thick or hard, I tried spooning some of the dressing on them before stacking ingredients, as it softens up the bread a little. (Be sure to account for additional dressing if you do this). Test it out to see what works best for you before you serve this to your guests.

Large Batch Homemade Pesto

fresh pesto sauce

Our family LOVES pesto! I have tried different kinds of store bought pesto and really never discovered one I love, so I decided to make my own. We are fortunate enough to have access to large 1 lb. bags of basil, which I usually buy in 5 lb. increments. We also purchase the bulk pine nuts and Parmegiano Reggiano  from Costco, which is so much more affordable than Whole Foods. When I make pesto, I like to make it in large batches then freeze in 2 portion Tupperware containers (see photo). It is key to have a great food processor. I have a new “Breville Sous Chef Food Processor” that I received from my mother-in-law, that I absolutely love! Anyway, so here are the ingredients and the instructions.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound basil (9 oz leaves after removing stems)
  • ⅓ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 ½ cup fresh Parmesan Cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano)
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ cup pine nuts

Place the washed basil leaves, and oil in the food processor (using “S-Blade”), till minced, pausing occasionally to scrape in the basil on the sides. Add in the cheese, garlic and salt and process until smooth. Add in the pine nuts at the end, you can make it as crunchy or smooth as you like. My son loves it chunky but my daughter likes it super smooth. You are now ready to place the pesto into ½ cup storage containers. Now you can freeze your batches. Thaw as needed, but please do not microwave. When you add to your pasta, please save some of the salted pasta water to thin out the pesto a little so it has a smooth and slightly liquid consistency.