BASIL: Basil Paste; Basil Pesto Flavor Cubes

BASIL PESTO (pesto and so much more)

Note: This recipe’s ingredients, amounts and basic processing steps comes from the Cusinart Instruction Booklet (that came with my new machine), p. 37.

Makes 1 1/3 cups (enough to make about a dozen ice cubes in my ice cube tray or  mini muffins in my silicone mini muffin pan)


4 ounces high quality Parmesan cheese (rind removed), cut into 1-inch pieces

  • Ideally, I like to use a chunk of Parmesan Reggiano (great taste).
  • Remove the hard Parmesan rind before you put the cheese into the food processor.
  • Note: Parmesan rind is great for seasoning homemade soups and pasta sauces. For extra flavor, just toss the rind in with all the other ingredients. If you simmer the soup long enough the rind nearly disappears.

4 small garlic cloves

2 1/2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves (hard stems removed)

  • If your basil has flowers on it, that’s OK. They’re edible too!
  • Note: Fresh basil can sit for a few days on your kitchen counter in a glass of water, just like cut flowers! Just make sure only the stems are in the water but the leaves are not.
  • For a truly remarkable website about basil as well as all herbs and spices, see Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages ! Among other things, on this site you can find the name for herbs and spices in the languages of the the cuisines that commonly use each herb or spice – something that’s very helpful when shopping in your local Asian or other ethnic market!

1/3 cup walnut pieces

  • Walnuts are a decent source of ALA, the pre-curser to omega-3’s — which means your body can convert ALA into Omega 3’s – though it’s a very inefficient process and you can’t rely on getting omega 3’s this way.

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt


  • Using the food processor fitted with the metal blade, chop the Parmesan for about 30 seconds, until nicely chopped.
  • Add the garlic, basil, walnuts, salt, and half of the olive oil and process until combined, about 8 pulses.
  • With the machine running, pour the remaining oil into the feed tube (which lets the oil drain gradually into the work bowl of the processor).
  • Scrape the bowl with a spatula, and continue processing until you have a smooth consistency.
  • Taste and add salt, if desired.

Storage – Use today and freeze the rest

  • For food safety reasons, it is safest to use pesto the day you make it, and freeze the rest to use later. For food safety information related to pesto and other fresh herb sauces, see the Food Safety Tip in my post, How to Create Fabulous Fresh Herb Sauces or Pestos.
  • To freeze:
    • If  you have a silicone mini-muffin baking pan, you can freeze the pesto very easily. Just fill each muffin cup with basil. Then keep the muffin pan flat and place it in the freezer. As soon as the pesto is frozen, you just pop the “pesto muffins” out. Put the frozen pesto muffins into a plastic bag for the freezer; store in the freezer.
    • If you do not have a silicone mini-muffin pan, use an ice cube tray. And instead of popping the frozen cubes out later, just pry them out with a fork. That works too!

So…now what are we going to do with all of those frozen pesto ice cubes? Defrost them and then…

  • Smear some pesto over grilled fish or chicken
  • Mix pesto with a little more oil and some vinegar (or lemon juice) to make a great salad dressing
  • Add to vegetable soups!


If you don’t need pesto, but you want to have some basil to use all winter, you can freeze your basil with a little olive oil (to lightly coat the leaves and keep them nice and bright green). Here’s the technique developed by a fellow blogger, Kayln Denny. Also, herbalist, Susan Belsinger, makes basil paste the in the same manner, as shown in this Washington Post article/recipe.

As you know, I like to freeze small portions (sometimes in teaspoon or tablespoon portions) in silicone mini muffin pans and then pop the frozen flavor cubes into plastic bags for the freezer. Recently at one of William Sonoma’s technique classes, I learned that if you zip your bag closed and then insert a little straw into a small opening you can suck out the air. This will help keep your Basil Paste Flavor Cubes (and all other flavor cubes) fresher for longer!

Enjoy and be healthy!



9 thoughts on “BASIL: Basil Paste; Basil Pesto Flavor Cubes

  1. My yard is full of basil right now. Thank goodness for all the rain this season! Now that I know I can freeze pesto, it will be my solution for not letting any of this basil go to waste. Thanks, Shelley

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