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Parsley Walnut Pesto

I hope you’re off to a great start with your holiday cooking and baking! I’m getting ready to make Christmas cookies soon, and with all those sugary treats at parties, work and school, easy, nourishing dinners are a must.

This is one of my favorite recipes for pesto. First, I love it because I can make a big batch, jar it, and stick it in the freezer for a night when I’m short on time. Or I just slice off some frozen pesto to make a pizza or add to a soup or dressing. Pesto is a perfect sauce to have on hand to bring bright and satisfying flavors. Second, this recipe uses parsley and walnuts instead of basil and pine nuts—much more affordable and accessible even as winter approaches.

When we shut down our garden plot a few days ago (before this blanket of snow!), we harvested all of the remaining parsley for one last round of home-grown pesto. To freeze it, I take the time to quickly blanch the parsley leaves in boiling, salted water, which preserves the bright green color and fresh taste. I also tend to omit the cheese. It’s just as good without it, and it freezes better too. If Parmesan is a must, you can always mix a little in once it’s thawed.

The recipe will make about 1 ½ cups of pesto, which I find is enough for about 2 pounds of pasta. Feel free to halve or double the recipe, adjusting the size of your food processor if needed.

Parsley Walnut Pesto

1 cup walnuts (or pine nuts)
8 cups lightly packed fresh parsley leaves
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 to 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread nuts evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until golden and fragrant, tossing once, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Let cool completely.

2. If freezing, bring 4 cups salted water to a boil (it should taste like the sea). Add parsley and submerge with a spoon. Immediately drain in a colander and rinse with cold water until cool. Then pat parsley dry in a towel.

3. In a food processor, combine nuts, parsley and garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to start. Process until nuts are finely chopped. With machine running, pour oil through the feed tube in a steady stream, processing until smooth. Depending on your quantities, you may end up using more or less oil. Taste and add salt or pepper if needed.

To freeze, I recommend one of the following:

– Spoon pesto into ice cube tray, cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight. Then transfer cubes to a resealable plastic bag. OR

– Spoon pesto into freezer-safe glass jars. Pack down in the jar and cover with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Seal and freeze.

The pesto will keep up to 6 months and stay green! Defrost at room temperature, about 20-30 minutes for a cube, longer for a jar.

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