What I absolutely love about pesto is that is can lift any boring, tasteless dish. I add it to soups, casseroles and pasta sauces – or even use it as a dip or spread for sandwiches. Pesto is so easy to make that I find it hard to justify buying it. Besides, I have control over the quality and freshness of the ingredients – the better the ingredients, the better the pesto!
Even if I buy a good-quality pesto from a trusty supplier, it’s way more expensive, and never the same as making my own. Sometimes I make a few batches of the stuff and freeze it to have over winter. I know summer is pretty much over, but there’s still some basil available at farmers’ markets. I just think of all the soups, pasta dishes and stews I can jazz up over winer. Besides, I feel really good when I make my own pesto. 🙂
This recipe is for a dairy-free, and, therefore, vegan pesto. It’s based on Jude Blereau’s recipe from her cookbook Coming home to eat. There’s a dairy option, amongst others, though, in the variations list at the end of the recipe.
- 1 bunch of basil (if you’re picking it from your garden, that’s about 3 large handfuls of basil leaves)
- 2/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 2–3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tsp shiro (white) miso* (optional)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 100 mLs good quality extra virgin olive oil
*Shiro miso is made of fermented soy beans and white rice. It has a strong, salty flavour, and, so, should always be use in small amounts. You can adjust it to your taste, so it’s better to start with smaller amounts. If you don’t have any miso, you don’t have to use it. It just means that your pesto will not have any seasoning. But that’s ok. When adding the pesto to a dish, just account for the seasoning by adjusting the amount of salt in your dish.
It’s simple really: put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined. The pesto should be chunky.
If you don’t have a food processor, or would rather not have to clean it – food processors are a pain to clean! – you can use a large marble or granite mortar and pestle. First crush the garlic, then add the pine nuts to the garlic and grind them (make sure you don’t over do it so they remain chuncky), then add the basil and pound away. Mix in the miso and lemon juice, and then slowly add some (not all) of the olive oil and gently stir so you have a thick mixture. Transfer to an airtight glass jar (in which you will store the pesto) and mix in the remainder of the olive oil.
Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. If you don’t think you’ll eat it in the next 2 weeks, you can freeze some in freezer bags or ice-cube trays. (Note: when storing the pesto in the refrigerator, the surface of the pesto will become brown, as it’s exposed to oxygen. This doesn’t mean it has gone off. You can still use it.)
Pesto is an easy dish to experiment with. Play around with the type and quantity of ingredients – it will always taste good! I mean, how can one go wrong with fresh herbs and nuts?
- To make a dairy version, just omit the shiro miso and lemon juice, and add 1/2 cup of grated parmesan or pecorino
- Instead of pine nuts why not try cashews or macadamias? I personally like using cashews. I buy raw, pesticide-free ones and lightly toast them before using it in my pesto
- If basil is not your thing, or you’d like to mix things up a bit, try using rocket or fresh corriander instead