Pesto

This fresh and vibrant pesto is one of the best ways to use the incredibly nutritionally dense herb that is basil! I created this quick pesto recipe for Umbaco Landscape Architects and their community during this time where we are all looking for healthy and efficient ways to use and save ingredients. They will be sharing useful gardening and herb tips over these coming weeks.

I easily make a batch of pesto weekly using up various nuts and herbs that I have leftover, but basil is always my main herb. Below is a delicious and balanced pesto recipe that you can make or if you like, slightly adjust based on your taste/whatever you have in your pantry or fridge. Use more, less or no parmesan at all if you wish to create a dairy free pesto. Lets say you want to do half cashews and half almonds – do that! Originally, pine nuts were and are still used in Italy for a traditional pesto, but it is nice to have the flexible option to add any other nuts (don’t worry about soaking pine nuts or macadamias as they are usually quite high in natural oils). I recommend going easy on the garlic – just because the flavour does actually develop over time, so 1 clove should be enough.

I think the key to a good basil pesto is simply beautiful fresh basil. It’s flavour is incomparable and so I recommend using the basil that is plentiful while its still available.

If you like, you can easily double the amount below to make a larger batch of pesto.

Ingredients

Makes 1 jar 

1 bunch of basil (approx. 130g)

1 garlic clove (peeled)

70g almonds (soak almonds for 15 minutes in water – alternatively use other nuts such as cashews, macadamias or the original pine nuts, even pre- packed almond meal).

40g parmesan (freshly grated)

100ml olive oil (plus extra)

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (preferably organic and unpasteurised)

pinch of salt

Method

1.     Pick the basil from the stems and place the leaves in a large bowl of water. Lightly wash the basil leaves in the bowl and then transfer them onto a dry kitchen towel/paper. Gently dry them, then place the basil leaves into a food processor or your choice of blender.

2.     Add the garlic, nuts, parmesan, olive oil, apple cider vinegar and blend for 20 seconds or until a roughly smooth texture is formed. Taste and season with a pinch of salt, blend again for 5 seconds and season to your liking.

3. The best way to store pesto is by half freezing it in baking paper (transfer the pesto into the centre of a sheet of baking paper, fold it over, twist the ends and tie each end with a string). Then remove it from the freezer after 1 hour and a half and slice it into smaller portions then place it back into the freezer to completely solidify. Alternatively you can pour the pesto into ice cube containers and freeze them then relocate them to a container once frozen. Or store the pesto fresh in a container/jar covered with olive oil and closed with a lid (the olive oil protects the pesto from oxidising, preserving it and the vibrant colour. It will easily last a month in the fridge).

Ways to use pesto

  • Toss through pasta. Some delicious combinations include pesto pasta with fresh cherry tomatoes and a bit of rocket, or a lovely pesto prawn linguine, creamy chicken pesto pasta, the list goes on..
  • Spread over freshly sliced bread and place under the grill with any other additions such as tomatoes, a slice of cheese, cooked eggplant or other veggies
  • Add on top of roasted pumpkin/eggplant/zucchini
  • Serve next to grilled prawns, roasted chicken, baked fish

Recipe and photography created for Umbaco Landscape Architects

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