We all know and love pesto, that classic combo of fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts and parmesan. But it’s just the beginning.
The possibilities are endless!
takes: 15 minutes
makes: about 1 cup
1 big bunch basil
1-2 cloves garlic, optional
1 large handful pine nuts
1/4 – 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large handful grated parmesan or extra nuts
1. PUREE herbs, garlic and nuts in a food processor until finely chopped. If using your stick blender add the oil before you puree.
2. Add enough oil to make a loose paste.
3. Stir in cheese. Taste & season.
herbs – other leafy herbs work well. Parsley, mint and coriander leaf (cilantro) are all great. Stronger herbs like sage or oregano can be used sparingly – best if combined with parsley so the flavour isn’t too crazy.
wintery – make a winter pesto with flat leaf parsley instead of basil.
nuts – pine nuts are number 1 choice. Almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, walnuts, pecans, peanuts. I prefer unroasted so the nut flavour doesn’t dominate, but feel free to experiment with roasted nuts too.
dairy-free – replace the parmesan with extra nuts
nut-free – replace the nuts with extra parmesan or fresh breadcrumbs.
budget – replace the nuts with breadcrumbs and reduce the cheese. A combination of basil, which tends to be expensive, as well as other cheaper herbs like parsley or mint can help.
don’t have a food processor? – just chop everything by hand and stir together. Aim for a more rustic, chunky pesto.
favourite alternative combos – mint & almond pesto, rocket (arugula) & walnut, sage & walnut (warm the sage leaves gently in the oil to gently cook them and cool before making the pesto, basil & cashew, carrot top & cashew, parsley & almonds.
Absolutely. Takes about 15 minutes. A great way to prevent basil going bad in the fridge. Pop in a clean glass jar or other airtight container and cover with a layer of oil to prevent browning and mold growth. Should keep in the fridge for a few weeks. Can be frozen so you have a stash of Summer to last the Winter through…
Waste Avoidance Strategy
basil – cover with oil and store in the fridge. Or you can freeze the leaves, they’ll wilt but will still be delicious.
parmesan – wrap in waxed paper or baking paper and store in the fridge in a sealed paper bag or airtight container. Will keep for months. Can be frozen if you’re going away.
pinenuts – will keep in the fridge for months and longer in the fridge but I don’t bother refrigerating them.
garlic – will keep for months in the pantry. I wrap in a brown paper bag to protect from light and prevent shooting.
olive oil – lasts for years in the pantry. But nicer when fresher so don’t go too crazy buying in bulk.
Problem Solving Guide
too bland – season with salt & pepper or a little more parmesan. A splash of lemon juice can also help bring it to life. Next time try a different source of herbs.
too dry – add a little more oil.
fluro green colour – if you’re using a blender or liquidiser it can mash up the herbs too much so you get a crazy-coloured puree. Next time just chop everything by hand and stir together.