Today’s lesson is 420 words, a 1 min 40 sec reading time. It is the seventh lesson of How to Hack Your Freezer.
Pesto adds a creamy, complex, nutty, cheesy, salty goodness to almost anything it touches. One of the most versatile sauces, pesto can garnish pasta, sandwiches, tomato salads, roasted vegetables, and grain bowls. It also makes an excellent marinade for chicken and fish.
Whether you buy it in the deli section or decide to make it yourself, once frozen, these cubes can elevate even the most rushed of weekday meals.
Ice cube tray
Blender or food processor (optional)
Mortar & pestle (optional)
2-3 cups basil leaves (~ 2 bunches)
¾ cup olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves
¼ to 1/2 cup pine nuts
1 cup finely grated parmesan/pecorino romano (a mixture is 👍)
Kosher salt (to taste)
Toast the nuts (learn how here)
Mince or pound garlic in mortar & pestle; combine/process/pound with nuts
Rough-chop basil; then pulse with most of the olive oil
Add nuts, garlic & most of the cheese; blend
Taste and adjust with remaining cheese, olive oil & salt
Save some for the fridge, freeze the rest into cubes
To defrost, let sit at room temp for ~1 hour, or less if in small cubes. Alternatively, microwave in 15-second intervals.
📝 Notes, Tips & Tricks:
Pesto lasts ~5 days in the fridge, ~6 months in the freezer.
To extend fridge life a few days, cover with a thin layer of olive oil. This prevents oxidation.
For textural consistency, process the nuts and garlic separately from the basil (e.g., in a mortar & pestle, or the food processor in a separate batch)
Don't over-process the basil, or it will become watery — a rough chop & scraping down the sides will help keep things consistent.
Don't skimp on the nuts and cheese - they are what make the pesto creamy & rich.
It's pretty hard to mess up pesto. So long as you taste & adjust, the ratios are flexible. Trust your intuition. 👨🎨
With pasta, don't cook the pesto with it. It will turn brown. Add at the end instead.
When adding pesto to pasta, loosen it up with a few splashes of pasta water (save some before straining).
To free up your ice cube tray, transfer pesto cubes to a zip bag once frozen.
👆 Variations & Additions:
Greens: broccoli rabe, kale, chard, arugula, spinach
Herbs: parsley, cilantro, mint, marjoram
Veggies: broccoli, cauliflower
Nuts: walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, macadamia, pecans
Cheese: pecorino romano, manchego, asiago
🎓 Further Study
Freezer Cubes [Life School]
Basil Pesto [NYTimes, Samin Nosrat]
Five Sauces for the Modern Cook [NYTimes]
📚 Check out more in the Table of Contents