Umpqua Valley Pesto

Local garlic, walnuts and basil combine with imported extra virgin olive oil and a chunk of parmigiano-reggiano to make a perfect pesto. Of course, it's delicious tossed with pasta or vegetables, but I love a dollop stirred into homemade minestrone soup.

2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves (about 2 ounces)
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese or about a 1 ounce chunk
1/4 cup lightly toasted walnuts* (about 1 ounce)
4 cloves garlic, peeled (or more if you really like it)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (2 ounces)

If the parmesan is not already grated, place it in the food processor first and process into small pieces. Add the basil leaves, walnuts and garlic and pulse until everything is finely chopped. Add the olive oil through the feed tube and process until to the texture you like. If your cheese is not very salty, you may want to add a pinch of salt. For extra zing add some freshly ground pepper to taste.

Makes about 3/4 cup. I like to freeze it in a ice cube tray until firm (it will make 4 to 8 cubes, depending on whether you put 1 or 2 tablespoons per cube) and then store them in a baggie in the freezer to use whenever the mood strikes. If you want to freeze the whole batch, pour it into a jar and coat the top with a thin layer of olive oil to keep the basil from drying out.

* to toast the walnuts, preheat an oven to 350. Place the nuts in a pie pan and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, just until they begin to color and become fragrant.

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