20. pesto


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.

Prepare Ahead?

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.

– 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.


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  • Given that my oregano has gone especially berserk this year, I must finally have a go at making pesto out of it.

      • I’ve just made a batch of oregano pesto with my new NutriBullet (which wasn’t as good at chopping up the fine stems as I’d hoped). Although I’ll reassess when it has matured, and the garlic isn’t coming through as rawly, it came out well, even a little sweeter than I’m used to pesto being. This could be because I used cashews rather than pine nuts too. Good.

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