Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Homemade Basil Pesto (nut-free)

Pesto has to be one of the most versatile and easy to make sauces of all time. The earthy texture of basil and parmesan cheese goes great with so many dishes.  Now is your time to try it!

With the right ingredients and a good blending tool, in a matter of minutes you can be pouring this green sauce from heaven onto your favorite dish. I leave nuts out of my recipe, mostly because of cost, but also because I don't really taste a difference. Pine nuts are commonly called for in pesto recipes but it’s hard to find them cheaply (at least $5). Also so many people are allergic to them, why risk it if you are having people over. 

I love the smell of fresh basil! Wait to pick the leaves until they start to curl and show ridges. Aren't they pretty? 

While it might seem intimidating to make your own sauces at first, with a basic blender or food processor the job is easy. My mini food processor made quick work of the basil leaves and parm. Since mine is small I added 1.5 cups of basil at a time.

My favorite way to eat pesto is with pasta, plain and simple. Pesto also goes great as a sandwich spread, as a replacement pizza sauce (check out my recipe here) and to season meats. 

Price: 2 out of 4 on my price scale. I buy the parmasean cheese at Aldi for $1.99 and use about 1/2 the container. It only takes 1/3 a cup of oil which doesn't make a huge dent in the bottle. I try to shoot for the $10 price point for my everyday EVOO.  At a minimum I recommend buying the pre-grown plants at the grocery store, and keep it growing for when you get hungry for more pesto! They are usually $3.99.

How to grow your own basil:
Growing your own herbs, weather you live in urban Chicago, rural Pennsylvania, or Suburban New Jersey, is easy! All you need is a window with light and a small jar of dirt. For me there’s a huge satisfaction in making your own food from scratch that you’ve grown. Growing your own herbs is not only healthy for you but cheaper than picking them up at the grocery. Cheers to that!

Plant Your Own – Using a mason jar, some dirt and seeds you can quickly and cheaply plant a window pot. This may take a month or so to start producing enough leaves for pesto but once it does it will last for a long time. You can also purchase a kit that’s pre-potted from gardening stores or online.  You can also buy pre-grown seedlings from your local nursery or garden center and plant in a ceramic pot and sit outside, like mine in the black pot below. Keep the plant in a sunny spot. I’ve had the best luck with this method.

Grocery Store - Buy a pre-grown plant at the grocery store. These babies are great and can be kept growing for months with the right care. The one I bought for this post was blooming for 2 months (see below in white pot). The trick is to keep it in the plastic pot it came in and transfer to a bowl or small pot and water from the bottom. Let water sit in the bottom of the pot and the plant will absorb as it needs. Keep the plant in a sunny window.

The next step is trimming the leaves, which is so easy! When you’re ready to use the basil, pluck the leaves off individually. No scissors needed. The plant will keep growing even after you use the ripe leaves.

Homemade Basil Pesto Recipe:
3 Cups Fresh Basil Leaves, lightly packed
1 Tbsp. Garlic, minced (or 1 clove)
1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 Cup Parmesan Cheese (grated)
2 tsp. Lemon Juice
1 tsp. Salt

Directions: In a blender or food processor add half the basil leaves, all garlic, oil, cheese and lemon juice. Blend on puree or a high setting. Once mixed add in the rest of the basil. You may need to open the blender and scrape ingredients from the edges down with a spatula to make sure all ingredients are stirred. Blend for about 1 minute total. Remove from blender and let sit for 10-20 minutes before serving so the basil has time to marinate. Serve warm or cold. 

1 comment :

  1. Thanks for the helpful recipe I hope it turns out good!