This is part of a semi-regular series of posts tackling how to make some of the things that we often end up buying pre-made. Things that we think of as basic ingredients, that aren’t ‘ingredients’ at all but are actually processed in some way for us. Things like bread, jam, butter, ketchup, baked beans and pickled ginger. Not everything is cheaper to make than buy, yet when you make it yourself, you know what’s in it.
Pesto is one of the easiest things to make yourself, and it’s so tasty homemade, but it only becomes really good value when you grow your own basil. Traditionally it uses pine nuts, but I used walnuts last time for three reasons – I’d heard it suggested that they’d give a better flavour, they’re cheaper and I actually had some in. Have to say I really liked the results so would definitely go down that route again.
I used extra virgin olive oil but you could probably get away with cheaper olive oil. Don’t skip the cheese though – it makes all the difference. Oh and the quantities are variable as it really doesn’t matter if you add a bit more of one thing or less of something else – just taste and adjust as needed.
As you can see, I served my pesto with homemade gnocchi (recipe here), roasted veg and chopped walnuts, but it’s equally at home with any kind of pasta, or you can use it as a sauce for chicken or to stir into soups.
Basil Pesto (serves two)
- One or two large handful fresh basil leaves
- tablespoon walnuts, chopped
- handful grated parmesan or similar
- 1 small clove garlic, crushed
- enough olive oil to make a smooth mixture
Put the walnuts and garlic into a blender with a little oil and blend until smooth. Add the basil and a little more oil and blend again, stopping to push the mix down in the jug as needed. Remove to a bowl, stir in the cheese, then add enough olive oil to thin down to the right consistency. Taste and season as desired.
Use the pesto as a sauce for pasta, gnocchi or meat, keeping in the fridge until needed (but I wouldn’t keep more than a couple of days).