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How to Host a Summertime Pesto Party
The Pesto Party - a Fabulous Summer Get-Together
For the past several years, friends of my family have thrown annual pesto parties in the summertime. Clearly then, the idea is not my own, but it is simply too good to leave un-shared!
What is a pesto party?
A pesto party is a gathering of friends at which everyone eats, drinks, laughs, and makes pesto. Guests are encouraged to bring a bottle of olive oil and empty jars; hosts provide hardware, fresh basil, parmesan cheese, garlic, and pine nuts.
The party I had the pleasure of attending began with a delicious lunch inside the hosts' home. We then adjourned to the backyard, where we sat out on picnic blankets and culled through large bags of basil leaves, pulling off the stems to prepare it for the pesto.
The prepared leaves were then taken to a table where a blender was set up. Here, they were combined with olive oil and pine nuts to be made into pesto. Finished batches were poured into the jars that guests had brought. Guests then picked them up on the way out.
What makes pesto parties so special is the way they indulge the senses. Not only are guests eating and drinking, they are also enjoying the feel of fresh basil leaves in their hands, smelling the fresh aroma in the air, and of course hearing the cheerful whir of blenders and food processors as they grind away.
Pesto parties give guests something to do other than stand, eat, and talk. It is a nice break from the usual string of summer picnics and barbecues and feels novel- plus there are goodies involved! Few things are more satisfying than returning from a wonderful afternoon with a couple of jars of fresh, delicious pesto in hand!
What's more, pesto parties keep on giving. Even after the party is long over, guests and hosts alike can continue to use the pesto they made, which is divine in flavour, but also full of fond memories.
From planning to post party reflections, pesto parties are a wonderful summer activity. I hope you consider hosting one yourself!
Pesto Party Tips
Buy the basil in bulk- it would be prohibitively expensive to put chase pesto for this party from a grocery store. Try instead to buy it in bulk directly from a local farmer or wholesaler.
Substitute walnuts, pecans, or almonds for pine nuts- if you’re looking to save money... because pine nuts can get pricey!!
Make it a potluck- to reduce time spent planning and preparing, invite friends to bring dishes to your party. This can allow you to focus on setup for pesto creation.
Play with scale- if you don't want to hold a large soirée, no worries! It is very easy to scale down a pesto party into a small get-together of three of four friends.
Bring in extra hardware- depending on the size of your party, you might want reinforcements. Consider asking one or two guests if they might be willing to bring along a blender or food processor to expedite the pesto making process.
Be prepared for the mess- when pesto is made on a large scale, a mess is inevitable. Olive oil can get everywhere, and cleanup can be a nightmare- if you're not prepared. If you can, make the pesto outside, on a table that can be hosed down after the party. If you must prepare the pesto in your kitchen, lay down newspapers or mats to reduce post-party mopping and headaches.
Have extra jars on hand- though guests are encouraged to bring their own jars, some will inevitably forget or bring an inadequate number. For this reason, it is nice to have extra jars on hand. In the months leading up to the party, simply save old marinara, peanut, and jelly jars after you use them so you have plenty of containers once the party rolls around!
Freeze the pesto in ice cube trays for later use- pesto is best enjoyed fresh, but not all of it can be consumed right after the party, especially because such a high volume is produced. The best way to keep pesto fresh is to freeze it, and the best way to freeze pesto is to put it in batches into an ice cube tray and dump the frozen cubes into a resealable bag. These cubes can then be left out to thaw or microwaved when the occasion calls.