Holiday Gifts From Summer’s Bounty

If you’ve been reading this column for any length of time, you know we’re celebrating Christmas in July. And I’ve got a great idea for turning summer’s bounty into gifts for the holidays.

Given how easy it is to grow basil, this year I’m making gifts of pesto—specifically Pesto alla Genovese (peh-sto geh-no-VEH-zeh).


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Whether you grow it or buy it, basil is the main ingredient in this gourmet food item that is sure to please just about everyone on your gift list. 

Pesto alla Genovese 

 1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place pine nuts in a small skillet and heat over medium heat until they begin to turn golden. In the bowl of a food processor (or blender), combine the basil, salt and pepper, and process for a few seconds until the basil is chopped. Add the cheese, pine nuts and garlic. While the processor is running, add the oil in a thin, steady stream until a mostly smooth sauce is formed.


1. If using a blender, set to “puree.”

2. This recipe multiplies well, but do not try to make more than a double batch in a blender, or triple in a food processor.

3. Make sure all of your tools, equipment and hands are impeccably clean. The introduction of any bacteria may cause the pesto to turn dark.

4. Pesto may be made several days in advance and kept refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to use. If making in advance, be sure to cover the top of the pesto with a thin layer of olive oil to prevent the pesto from darkening. Pesto may also be frozen in the same manner in small quantities for use at a later date.

5. Frozen shelf life is one year. When thawed and kept refrigerated at 40 degrees, product has a shelf life of 10 days.

6. I am using small glass jelly jars with lids and rims. I’m storing in the freezer, making sure to leave about 1/2-inch head room for expansion.

(If you’re looking to start your own basil harvest, check out Gardeners Supply Company. They are one of my favorite suppliers for all my garden needs, and for a limited time they’re offering a 10% discount on orders over $50.)

Here’s a suggested tag to attach to your gift:

Pesto alla Genovese. This all-natural pesto was made in the Genovese style with fresh basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. To use: Toss with hot pasta, or use as a crostini topping, or as a marinade for chicken or fish. Keep refrigerated, and use within one week. Enjoy! 

Turn your talents in the kitchen into gifts for the holidays with my handy booklet, Gifts in a Jar. It’s available as a printed booklet for $7 or an eBooklet for $5. To order either version: Visit our website at and click on bookstore; call 800-550-3502; or send your check or money order to Debt-Proof Living, Dept. JARS, PO Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.

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1 reply
  1. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    Pesto will darken due to oxidation of the basil, not bacteria. Use it as quickly as possible after making it to prevent this from happening.


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