This is what happens when you plant 12 basil starters and water daily for many weeks. It is both joyous and overwhelming because now I have to figure out what to do with all this basil! My husband warned me as I stood balancing starter packs in my arms at the Farmer’s Market. “That might be overkill”, he said. “Do you think we need that much basil?”, he asked. I eagerly nodded yes, but in hindsight he was probably right. Two people…twelve basil plants…the math just doesn’t quite add up.
Luckily we are pesto fanatics and there are 1,027 ways to use it! Pesto can be added to sandwiches, mixed with mayo for a spread, folded into chicken salad or tuna salad, or used as the “sauce” for a pizza; so many choices! Prepared pesto freezes beautifully; I will definitely be stocking up for winter with this booming crop. There is something wonderful about pulling pesto out of the freezer on a cold January evening and pretending it is summer again. Of course I frequently purchase prepared pesto from the grocery store, but it is never as good as the homemade stuff.
Fresh basil is best friends with tomato and mozzarella and can be used in Caprese sandwiches/salads. It is also a beautiful garnish for bruschetta, pizza, lasagna, or any italian pasta dish. Double duty bonus: the basil planter is currently a decoration on my front porch.
Speaking of summer veggie bounty…I picked up a few zucchini from the market last week and they were pretty darn delicious paired with pesto, too! I will have to remember that when the zucchini crop explodes in a few weeks and I am scrambling to find ways to use them. Okay, enough gabbing about my obsession with basil, onto the recipe…
- 2 lb. carrots; diced (I used a multi-colored variety but regular carrots would be lovely)
- 6 small (or 2 large) zucchini, diced
- 2 tbsp. olive oil (for veggies) plus 1/3 c. olive oil (for pesto)
- 1 lb. short cut pasta (I used my favorite gluten free variety from Trader Joe’s)
- 2 packed c. (about 50-60 large leaves) fresh basil
- 1/3 c. walnuts
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
- salt/pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Peel carrots and dice. Remove ends of zucchini and dice.
Add carrots and zucchini to a large baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tbsp. olive oil, and salt/pepper. Toss to combine then spread in an even layer.
Bake for 30 minutes, turning halfway through. Those colors…
While veggies are cooking, make the pesto: combine basil leaves, walnuts, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor.
Pulse several times until the mixture is finely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and return lid.
Drizzle 1/3 c. olive oil while food processor is running on low speed until the ingredients are well combined and the mixture begins to come together. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and fold in parmesan cheese and salt/pepper. The oil may want to rise to the top; this is okay, just stir to for a second to combine.
Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and place in a large bowl. Top with the prepared pesto and stir well to combine.
Add roasted vegetables and stir again.
Serve with an extra sprinkle of parmesan cheese and extra pepper.
What an incredibly fresh, healthy, and light summer meal. This recipe will definitely feed a crowd! Happy summer and enjoy!