Tuesday, 13 September 2016


I absolutely love pesto. In our household, we mostly stir it into pasta – it makes a great change from a tomato-based sauce – but there are plenty of other ways to enjoy pesto, whether you spread it on sandwiches or bruschetta, drizzle it over pizza, or simply use it as a dip.  
I like to make my own pesto – I quite enjoy the ritual of whizzing up the vibrant green gloop in my food processor (I have a special mini one that makes the job especially easy). Of course, you can buy perfectly decent ready-made pesto in the supermarket but in my opinion home-made just tastes so much fresher. It’s a good emergency recipe too because I usually have all the ingredients to hand, including a pot of basil on my kitchen windowsill. Plus – a major bonus in my eyes – fresh pesto can be frozen, meaning I never waste a drop. I freeze mine in small (100ml capacity) pots that I originally bought when I made baby purées.

A good rule of thumb when making pesto is to use a single quantity of basil leaves and double quantities of pine nuts and Parmesan. So, for example, if you have 20g of basil leaves, use 40g of each pine nuts and Parmesan. I don’t tend to measure my oil; I just add the oil until the consistency of the pesto seems right, but the quantity given in this recipe should yield a thick but spoonable pesto – feel free to adjust to suit your own personal preference.

Basil pesto

Makes approximately 200g
50g pine nuts
25g fresh basil leaves
50g Parmesan cheese (or vegetarian alternative)
1 garlic clove, crushed
75ml olive oil (regular is fine; not extra-virgin)
Freshly ground black pepper

Dry-fry the pine nuts in a small frying pan – they’re ready when they’re golden brown and you can smell a toasty aroma from the pan. Immediately transfer them to a plate to cool down – do not leave in the pan or they’ll burn.
Pick the leaves from the basil, then wash and pat dry with kitchen paper. Cut the Parmesan into cubes (you can grate it but I’ve tried both ways and can’t see any discernible difference in the finished pesto, and grating is frankly more effort).
Put the cooled pine nuts, basil, Parmesan and garlic into a mini food processor along with half the oil. Process until everything is well chopped, then slowly add the remaining oil until the pesto has reached the desired consistency. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper – I don’t use salt because Parmesan can be pretty salty.
Hey presto – home-made pesto!

* Freeze any leftover pesto immediately in small freezerproof containers. To defrost, simply remove from the freezer and leave out on the side until fully defrosted. It’s not a great idea to defrost in the microwave because it’s too easy to overdo it and end up with a congealed lump but, if you’re in a hurry, you could pop the unopened container in a bowl of boiling water to speed up the defrosting process.

No comments: