Saturday, September 3, 2011

Classic Pesto

Happy September to all!  I am blogging not only in a new month, but in a new apartment and new kitchen, having moved from the Lower East to the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  I apologize for my brief hiatus from blogging, while packing up my kitchen in the old place and unloading it in the new, but finally this weekend I was ready to cook again.

Tonight's recipe is in anticipation of fall weather just around the corner.  The last of summer's fresh basil is here, and the best way to make basil last through the winter is to turn it into pesto.  Make it now, freeze it for later, and you can enjoy the intoxicating smell of basil well into the cold months.  Today I'm starting simple, with the pesto itself (try it spread thinly over toasted baguette for a quick bruschetta), but in the nights to come, I'll add posts with recipes that use the pesto in more creative ways. 

  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts 
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups (4 ounces) basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup grated vegan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Drop the walnuts and garlic through the chute of a food processor, while the food processor is on, and process until minced.  Add the olive oil and pulse 3 times to combine.

2. Add the basil, cheese, and salt.  Process until finely minced, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through.  Make sure that you pack the basil fairly tightly when measuring out the 4 cups.  It's a lot of basil, but your kitchen is going to smell amazing.

Note: for the cheese, I wanted something that would capture the flavor of fresh Parmesan, but didn't want the strong taste of vegan Parmesan sprinkles.  Instead, I grated the vegan mozzarella block from Galaxy Foods.  If you try a different version of vegan cheese for this recipe, I'd love to hear the results.

To freeze the pesto, spoon by the tablespoon into the cubes of an ice tray. Once frozen, pop out the cubes and freeze in a zip-top plastic bag. Thaw in the fridge at least a few hours before adding to a recipe.  The pesto will keep optimally in the freezer for abut 3 months this way. If you plan to eat it much sooner, refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Nutrition Info:
12 servings (1 tablespoon), Calories 58 

Tasting Notes:
The garlic taste was a touch too strong, but the fresh basil was absolutely beautiful.  This recipe is so easy and the basil was so fresh that it seems a shame ever to use bottled pesto again.  Wonderfully smooth, and almost creamy, and I look forward to using the pesto more in the days ahead.


I tried several variations on this pesto, made with pine nuts instead of walnuts, all of which were delicious.  First up was adding bottled roasted bell peppers to the mix. This was my least favorite variation, and a little watery, but worked nicely on crackers.

Adding canned artichoke hearts made the pesto to die for - try it absolutely anywhere and everywhere you normally use pesto.

Finally, I made a version with sun-dried tomatoes added in; this pesto had a salty, rich flavor, and was perfect over baked tofu steaks.


  1. happy september to you too! i'm planning on doing a big harvest of basil and making some pesto tonight...artichokes and bell peppers are great ideas for additions. usually instead of walnuts or pine nuts i like to use cashews, and instead of a vegan cheese substitute i use nutritional yeast--it works fabulously.

  2. I love the idea for nutritional yeast, which I hadn't even thought of! Thanks for the tip :)