Updated: Sep 12
As a little play on words I thought it would be fun to make basil pesto for the feast of St. Basil. I also pull this recipe out for other Italian saint feast days because it reminds me of my Italian pilgrimage which was full of deliciously fresh pesto. I'll warn you ahead of time, I have an Italian in my kitchen so this is a garlicky recipe, but if that's too much for your taste I would say to just cut it in half.
Before we begin, let's get a quick introduction to the saint we are celebrating today. St. Basil is one of the most notable Doctors of the Church and was also the Bishop of Caesarea. It is believed that he was born around 329AD and died on January 1, 379AD.
We often read that he ranks after St. Athanasius as a defender of the Oriental Church against the 4th century heresy called Arianism, which denied the divine nature of Jesus Christ. In response to the Arian heresy St. Basil became a strong proponent of the Nicene Creed which clearly states what we believe about the nature of Jesus.
His best friend is also a saint, St. Gregory of Nazianzus and his brother is also a saint, St. Gregory of Nyssa. The three of them are known as “The Three Cappadocians,” of which St. Basil has the most prominent theological writings. Imagine that for your own life; that you, your best friend, and your siblings could all be great saints of the Church. Dream big!
The Emperor Valens, an Arian supporter, tried to silence St. Basil to no avail. And after the death of St. Athanasius defending the faith against Arianism fell to St. Basil. There is mention of St. Basil from the Council of Chalcedon, which took place 72 years after his death, that called him, "the great Basil, minister of grace who has expounded the truth to the whole earth."
I also have a beautiful table blessing with a reading from St. Basil the great at the end of this recipe.
You ready to whip up some pesto?
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 1 1/2 cups
3 cups fresh basil (OR 2 cups fresh basil and 1 cup fresh spinach)
3 garlic cloves
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup pine nuts OR walnuts (optional)
I made everything in our Cuisinart Smart Stick, one of the best things we registered for. If you have a mini food processor you could make it in that too!
The first time I made this I just used basil, which is the traditional way of making pesto and can also be the expensive way. It was delicious so if you want to go that route then just don't add in the fresh spinach. Measure out 2 cups fresh basil.
On top of the basil, fill the measuring cup with fresh spinach up to 3 cups.
Skin three cloves of garlic, don't worry about mincing them the food processor will do that work for you.
Combine the basil, garlic, and spinach in the food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. *If you want the pine nuts or walnuts this would be the time to put those in.
Locked and loaded! Pulse for about 10-15 seconds, if you are using the smart stick you may have to open it and move your ingredients around and then pulse again.
This is what mine looked like, you don't want to make it too fine just yet because you are going to be running the food processor again.
Pour in the 3/4 cup olive oil and turn the processor back on low for about 10-15 seconds.
This smells so amazing, basil...garlic...olive oil goodness!
Measure out 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and sprinkle that in along with the 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp ground pepper.
Mix until all the ingredients are incorporated to a consistency that you prefer and taste test along the way.
You can serve this immediately or put in a container to be refrigerated first. I found that the spinach really filled out the pesto but if you taste the spinach too much you can counteract this by seasoning with dried basil leaves or adding a little more cheese. Refrigerating overnight also helped this as well because the ingredients were able to rest and soak in the olive oil.
You can refrigerate this up to three days or freeze it up to a month.
A Reading from St. Basil the Great The bread you store up belongs to the hungry; the cloak that lies in your chest belongs to the naked; the gold that you have hidden in the ground belongs to the poor. If everyone would take only according to his needs and would leave the surplus to the needy, no one would be rich, no one poor, no one in misery.
Verse: Put no confidence in extortion, and set no vain hopes on robbery
Response: If riches increase, do not set your heart on them (Ps 62:10).
The Lord's Prayer
Blessing We bless you, Lord, our God, for you enlighten the church of the East and the West, with the solid doctrine of our teachers in the faith, St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzus. May we always be ready to live according to these teachings, as we seek to follow the path of the gospel shown to us by Christ, your Son. Bestow your blessing upon our table and all those dear to us, and make us always mindful of the needs of others. We ask you this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
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