Ask A Boston Chef: Fresh Basil Pesto

June 1, 2014 6:03 AM

(Photo from Sweet Basil)

By now, your herb garden should be in full swing (or at least close). And we have just the right easy-to-make dish to take full advantage of that fresh basil that’s sprouting up. Chef/Owner Dave Becker of Sweet Basil in Needham drops his recipe for basil pesto.

(Photo from Sweet Basil)

(Photo from Nina Gallant/Sweet Basil)

Basil Pesto

Makes 2½ Cups

2 cups fresh basil leaves, cleaned, stemmed, and densely packed
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup grated Asiago cheese (optional)
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Place the garlic and the basil in a food processor and pulse once or twice. Slowly add the oil, continuously pulsing until the mixture reaches the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer the pesto to an airtight container, cover with a slick of extra-virgin olive oil and refrigerate for up to one week, stirring in the Asiago (if using) just before serving.

Chef Dave Becker
Sweet Basil
942 Great Plain Ave.
Needham, MA 02492

A Newburyport native, Dave Becker exudes the good-time vibe associated with the “Cape Cod of the North Shore.” In the beginning, cooking was merely a job for Dave – a way to earn money to buy Aerosmith tickets or beer. However, appreciating the instant gratification of cooking a tasty meal for family and friends and seeing smiles spread across their faces, Dave realized at a relatively tender age that cooking was more than simply a job for him. It is this unassuming notion of making people happy that forms the backbone of Sweet Basil, and is a large reason why customers do not mind waiting sometimes as long as two hours to be seated at one of Sweet Basil’s tables.

Ever the artiste, Dave has taken his passion to the page, self-publishing two cookbooks with food photographer Nina Gallant. Released in 2008, Thrown Out Of An Italian Kitchen, Recipes from Sweet Basil provides a snapshot of the experience of dining and working at the Italian-inspired eatery. His sophomore effort, Stewed (January 2013), is a collection of irreverent, handmade takes on classic soups, braises and stews from Sweet Basil.

In cooking and in life, Dave adheres to his own motto of “Cook what you like to eat, and never ever listen to anyone who tries to tell you what you should or should not enjoy.”