The other day I harvested basil and made pesto so I have decided to do a post about my pesto. The first pesto recipe I used was a vegan recipe from Ida Chandra Moskowitz’s Vegan with a Vengeance. Over the years, I have changed the recipe to meet my tastes. I love my pesto to be super lemony and garlicky. I never measure any of the ingredients because it usually depends on how much basil I harvest at the time. I’ve made it so many times that I can eyeball what I need and then I always have a baguette around to taste test as I go along… sometimes I end up eating it straight out of the mixer. I also make huge batches of pesto at once usually a few quarts at a time since I harvest so much basil.
- 1 & 1/2 cups walnuts
- About 6 cups of packed basil leaves (usually I fill my 9 cup food processor once, quickly blitz the leaves and fill it up a second time)
- 3 to 6 cloves of garlic
- 1 to 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice of one or two lemons
Pick your basil straight from the garden (it is freshest this way and makes for better tasting pesto). Wash the leaves, put through a salad spinner or dry on a towel. Make sure the basil leaves are completely dry before making the pesto. Toast the walnuts in a toaster oven (or regular oven) at 350°F for about 5 minutes on a baking sheet. Let the walnuts cool. If you make pesto with hot walnuts the nuts will wilt your fresh basil leaves.
Blitz the basil in a food processor (or blender) first. Then add walnuts, garlic, salt and lemon juice. Blend in the food processor until combined, scraping down the sides as you go. Continue to process while adding the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Sample at this point and add more ingredients to your taste.
You can add parmesan cheese to your pesto if you would like but honestly if you up the lemon and garlic you really don’t miss the cheese. I make my pesto without cheese and add it when I eat it. This is because I freeze pesto in quart Ziploc bags and it is better to add the cheese in right before you eat it. The pesto freezes really well in these bags. I lay the bag flat on a cookie sheet so it freezes flat, then I stack them in my freezer. When we want pesto I take a bag out of the freezer and open it up while still frozen. I transfer the pesto into a container to let it thaw (it is much easier this way and isn’t a mess trying to get the pesto out of a bag later). Making pesto fresh in the summer and freezing it allows you to enjoy pesto all winter long!
Many people make their pesto with pine nuts. I find that walnuts have a much bolder, darker flavor which I love about this recipe. Also walnuts are so much cheaper than pine nuts. When making pesto in bulk, walnuts are the way to go! I think one day I will need a walnut tree to match my field of basil. Once you make your own, you will never buy expensive, flavorless store-bought pesto again! We eat the pesto with pasta, on sandwiches, or slathered on a toasted baguette. Enjoy!