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How to Propagate Basil, Grow and Turn it Into the Most Amazing Pesto

While I came bearing gifts and lunch to celebrate my friend Sharon’s Birthday, I left with a surprise parting gift. She taught me how to propagate basil.

collage showing fresh basil being propgated in a paper cup then planted in a pot

How to propagate basil

As we were walking to my car, I casually reached down to admire her ginormous basil plant. Oh, that earthy, delightful fragrance! With that, she pinched off a couple of stems and suggested that I stick them in water for a few days. “They’ll grow roots and then you can plant them!”

And that’s exactly what happened just two weeks later, as you can see in the photos above. Yes, in a paper cup.

propagate:  to produce a new plant using a parent plant (of a plant or animal) to produce young plants.

Not only did the basil grow massive roots, those sprigs nearly doubled in size. That’s when I filled a pot with planting soil and gave my little crop of basil a  permanent place to thrive. Soon, I’m going to pinch off a few sprigs to propagate another pot of basil. And who knows? Maybe another and another.

From basil to pesto

If you’ve been around this blog for any time at all, you can predict what’s to follow. I’ve got Christmas on my mind. After all, it is July. It’s time to come up with yet another way to turn summer’s bounty into gifts for the Holidays.

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

Whether you grow it in your garden or in a container (it is so easy and probably not too late in the season to plant) or find it at a produce stand or farmer’s market, basil is the main ingredient in this gourmet food item. It is sure to please just about everyone on your gift list this holiday season. It’s consumable, unique, and absolutely the right size and color.

Homemade pesto sauce with basil and pine nuts in white mortar over old wooden table

Pesto Genovese

Traditionally, Pesto Genovese is made with a marble mortar and pestle because the steel blades of the food processor tend to bruise the basil, making it very dark green and slightly bitter. But it’s long and tiring work with the mortar and pestle. But not to worry! This recipe uses a food processor plus a few tricks involving ice. In 15 minutes you will have a very delicious pesto sauce, bright green and tasty—not at all bitter!
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Condiment, sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Chill Tools: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 1 cup
Calories: 199kcal
Cost: $4

Equipment

  • Food processor (or in a pinch, a blender see Note 1)
  • large bowl

Ingredients

  • 60-65 small basil leaves (50 gr. or 2 oz.)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin oil
  • 6 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (70 gr. or 2.5 oz. tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons Pecorino cheese cut into small pieces (30 gr. 1 oz.)
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts (15 gr., or 5 oz.)
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste (sea salt, kosher salt)
  • ice

Instructions

  • Place the bowl and blades of a food processor in the refrigerator or freezer until the tools are very cold, about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, get the basil leaves ready by washing them in cold water.
  • Place the clean basil in a large bowl with plenty of ice for 3-4 minutes.
  • Remove leaves from the ice and dry them very well in a kitchen towel. Important: The basil leaves must be very dry.
  • Remove bowl and blades from the refrigerator or freezer and place basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, and grated Parmigiano in the food processor bowl.
  • Pulse a few seconds in the food processor.
  • Add salt and Pecorino cheese to the bowl.
  • Blend all ingredients in the food processor for about 1 minute.
  • Add olive oil to the bowl and blend for about 5 minutes at medium speed, and at intervals: blend a few seconds, stop and start again until you see a creamy green pesto sauce. Work quickly as you do not want the pesto to heat up.
  • Serve Pesto Genovese over pasta (you may want to add a tablespoon or so of the pasta water to the Pesto to thin it out a bit, as needed) or as a spread on toasted bread as an appetizer. Yield: About 1 cup; 6 servings. 33 cal per serving.
  • Store Pesto Genovese in the refrigerator, in an airtight container for 2-3 days, taking care to cover the sauce with a layer of extra virgin olive oil.
  • It's possible to freezer pesto in small jars, again covered with a thin layer of olive oil, and then defrost it in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

Notes

1. If you do not have a food processor you can make this recipe in a blender using the setting “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. This recipe multiplies well, but do not try to make more than a double batch in a blender, or triple in a food processor.
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. Keep frozen at 0ºF or below. Frozen shelf life is one year. When thawed and kept refrigerated at 40°F, product has a shelf life of ten days.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 199kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 149mg | Potassium: 22mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 250IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 86mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

Gifts of Pesto

When preparing pesto for gifts, you’ll want to attach a tag with the following:

Pesto Genovese

This all-natural pesto was made in the Genovese style with fresh basil, olive oil, garlic, salt, pine nuts, Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino cheeses.

To Use: Toss with hot pasta, or use as a crostini topping, as a marinade for chicken or fish. Keep refrigerated and use within one week. Enjoy!

Now that I know how to propagate basil (so easy), I’m ready to try using this super fun technique with other herbs—perhaps even onions and garlic too!


Next Up:

Instant Pot Spaghetti with Meat Sauce—So Good, It’s Insane!

Secrets for How to Grow An Edible Garden Just About Anywhere!

12 Ways to Make it Christmas in July

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I love homemade gifts both to give and receive. No wonder I have so many favorites!

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Hand and Body Lotion

A jar of your own signature luxury hand and body lotion will definitely put you on the map. It’s that good. Not particularly crafty? No worries.

If you can assemble, empty, stir and mix well, you’ve got what it takes to make dozens of these gifts start to finish in a single evening.

 

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And the best part? About $3.50 per gift, depending on where you buy the ingredients and containers.

Gift and Cream

I have created a photo tutorial at A Homemade Gift You’d Actually Love to Receive with all of the step-by-step instructions and specifics on the ingredients and where to get them.

Believe me when I say this is the gift your recipient(s) will rave about. It’s that awesome!

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Electronic cards

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Shopping online can save a lot of time, frustration and gasoline. Finding free or reduced shipping makes online shopping even better. Dec. 14, 2019 is Free Shipping Day. Check FreeShipping.com for retailers who will be participating—and to grab hundreds of coupon codes, too.

READ: How to Shop with CASH at Amazon

Get cash back

If you’ll be shopping anyway, you might as well get some of your cash back. Rakuten is by far the easiest and most efficient way to do that. A Rakuten account is completely free, easy to set up. Then every time you shop online, make sure you have your Ebates account activated (it’s so easy—you’ll see once you have an account). And you can use your Rakuten account in-store, too!

If you’re curious why I’m such a Rakuten fan, a few weeks ago I got another Rakuten check in the mail—cash back for things I would have purchased anyway, including the rental car Harold and I used on our recent New England getaway. I didn’t expect it, but I’ll take it!

The hardest part about using Rakuten? Remembering to use it! Ha. However, they do make it pretty easy to add a Rakuten button on your computer’s toolbar or the Rakuten app for your mobile device. I believe I’ll stop forgetting, now that Rakuten is putting money back in my pocket. Read more