Sunday, September 23, 2012

Vegan Basil Pesto

The perfect recipe for harvesting all that basil in your garden at the end of the summer! 

Pesto is one of those foods that every home cook should know how to make. It's quick, easy, tasty, versatile and impressive. Well, at least impressive to your family and friends who don't know how easy it really is to make. Once you know the basic method of making pesto, you can get really creative with the variety of herbs or greens and nuts you use to make different flavors.

This recipe for basil pesto happens to be my personal favorite. It also happens to be vegan, simply because I prefer to make my pestos without Parmesan cheese. The first few times I ever had pesto, I thought it was okay, but kind of strong. Yet I loved the way it smelled and always wanted to love it more. Then one day I tried pesto my friend's homemade pesto and I was won over. Her secret? No Parmesan cheese! I started making my pesto without Parmesan cheese, too, and haven't turned back since. I think I just find the basil and Parmesan are just two very strong flavors and the way the compete with each other in traditional pesto just doesn't appeal to me, although I adore both of these ingredients separately. Anyway, if you normally aren't crazy about pesto maybe give this vegan variation a try and see if it doesn't win you over.
Vegan Basil Pesto
Once you make homemade pesto a few times, you won't need to measure ingredients anymore.. you'll just pull the ingredients together in your food processor, give it a whirl and have perfect pesto every time. 

2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves 
2 cups tightly packed fresh parsley leaves 
4 garlic cloves 
1/2 cup pecan pieces 
olive oil [1/3 to 1/2 cup] 
kosher salt [1/2 to 1 teaspoon]

1. Add the basil, parsley, garlic and pecans into the bowl of your food processor and process it until finely chopped. 
Add basil, parsley, garlic and pecans
to food processor bowl
Note: You can do this in steps if you prefer, processing the garlic and pecans first until finely chopped, then adding the basil and parsley and processing a bit more before proceeding with step 2 below. 
Process until finely chopped.
2. While the processor is running, drizzle olive oil through the food chute until the pesto reaches the desired consistency. This can require anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 cup of olive oil. 
Add olive oil and process until
 pesto is smooth.
3. Add a generous sprinkle of salt and give the pesto a few more whirls in the food processor. 
4. Use the pesto immediately in your favorite pesto recipe. 
5. Store any left over pesto in a clean glass jar in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for long term storage. 

Storing Pesto:
For best flavor, store pesto in a clean glass jar with a tightly fitting lid. Drizzle olive oil over the surface of the pesto until it is covered. This will help prevent the basil from oxidizing and turning a darker color. For best flavor, consistency and presentation, pesto should be used within a few days, although I have stored it a bit longer without any problems. It's a good idea to freeze whatever pesto you don't use within a few days.

Freezing Pesto:
This pesto freezes well. Again, store pesto in small, clean glass jars with tightly fitting lids and drizzle olive oil over the top until the surface of the pesto is covered with oil. It's also nice to freeze pesto in ice cube trays and then transfer the pesto cubes to freezer safe bags. Then when you need just need a tablespoon or two of pesto, it's at the ready. For best results use within 6 months, but I have used frozen pesto within 12 months.

How to use pesto:
+use as a sauce for pasta or gnocchi, diluting it a bit with the cooking water used to boil the pasta or gnocchi.
+use in a cream sauce for pasta--especially delicious with seafood.
+as a base on pizza instead of tomato sauce. See HERE.
+as a dip or spread on slices of rustic bread as an appetizer
+add a teaspoon or two to bowls of soup before serving.
+dot on top of tomato halves and roast
+as a spread on your favorite hot or cold sandwich
+drizzle over roasted vegetables such as eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes, etc.

Do you like pesto? How do you use it?

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  1. My SIL was just telling me she has so much basil in her garden, I'm going to pass this post onto her.

  2. Great idea, Diane! She can use 4 cups of basil and omit the parsley if she likes. :)

  3. That looks good! I do think we got some basil outside... I don't know, I'm trying to get my mum to plant some aromatics outside but she says my lavender takes too much space ;)

    Anyway, thanks for the recipe! I'll try it :)

  4. I'm not the biggest pesto lover but I've never tried to make it on my own either. Maybe I'll give this recipe a try and see if I like it any better than the restaurant variations I've tried. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I love pesto. I love the addition of parsley to this one.

  6. Just what I need! Happy to find a great way to use our abundant basil :). Thanks!

  7. I've never made pesto, but I love its taste and often get a jar of the pre-prepared stuff. Will have to try this recipe - I love the inclusion of pecans!

  8. I adore pesto and live for basil season. On the other hand, I didn't realize that it could taste good without the cheese -- perfect when I want a little less salt or I'm cooking for vegan friends. Thanks for the great idea.

  9. Looks delicious! I like pesto, but in small doses. I'd love to try it with pecans.

  10. Yes, please! I love pesto in soups, too, and I actually have a really good recipe for vegetarian chili that is the best with a spoonful of pesto stirred in. Will have to try your recipe!

  11. Oh Christine!! Thanks for the recipe. My sister has been looking for a recipe of pesto!! The brand we used to enjoy is not sold anymore :(

  12. I love pesto. I freeze it in ice cube trays and use it in all kinds of things. This year I'm experimenting with different herbs.

    I made Scarborough Fair pesto -- equal parts parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme with a little oil. I've already tried in a savory bread pudding -- yum!

    Next, I'm going to try one that is equal parts oregano and basil. I'll probably put garlic in that one.

    Joy's Book Blog

  13. I'm not a pesto fan, but...maybe I need to try again? *grin*

  14. I am not a huge pesto fan but this looks really tasty! We can't have this recipe in our house because of a nut allergy, but hey, he won't live here forever will he! lol

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