I’m in a big pesto place right now. I guess some people might feel like pesto is a kind of “yesterday” food, but I have never been too much into food-is-fashion, and it’s just so amazing and versatile.
And I always make it myself because:
1) it’s easy, and 2) I’m allergic to nuts.
Even though you can buy nut-free pestos (or pistous as they are sometimes called), nuts are so frequently connected to the idea of pesto that the whole notion just makes me nervous. If the label says “no nuts” then it’s a mental thing, clearly. But pesto is so simple to make that I’m always happy to remove any back-of-the-mind concerns and make it myself. Plus, you always get a super fresh result with your own ingredients, especially at the height of basil season.
What is Pesto Made of:
Classic pesto is made with fresh basil, Parmesan or another hard Italian grating cheese, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. And pine nuts, but again, not in this recipe! But that’s the classic pesto recipe, and you can play around with the ingredients.
The classic herb featured in pesto is basil. And working with fresh basil in your kitchen makes the world seem like a better place. Basil smells like summer. Plus at the height of herb season you need a way to use up all of those leafy bunches, whether they come from your own garden, or from a farmers’ market. (Or in my case, also sometimes from from my friends at Melissa’s or my neighbor Ted’s garden.) . You can play around with other herbs as well, instead of basil, or combine herbs.
How To Make Pesto:
Traditionally, in Italy, pesto is classically made using a mortar and pestle. I’m just not that industrious or patient, so I use my food processor. You can also make pesto in a blender.
Place the garlic and basil in a food processor or blender and pulse until everything is roughly chopped.
Add the oil and pepper and process, scraping down the sides, part way through, until everything is well blended. If it is very thick, add a bit more olive oil. Add the cheese and pulse until blended in. Taste and add salt if needed.
Pecorino Romano vs. Parmesan:
Parmesan is the cheese most often used in pesto, but another option (and a slightly cheaper one) is Pecorino Romano, made from sheep’s milk. You can buy it in chunks or already grated (Gasp! Oh no, how could you? Well I do, all the time). It’s quite salty though so when you use it, taste before salting as you would normally do.
This is a pretty thick pesto, a real paste, and if you want a thinner pesto for drizzling or tossing with hot pasta you could add some hot water from cooking the pasta, or some extra olive oil.
You can freeze pesto, so it makes sense to make a big batch when a windfall of basil comes your way. Is there anything more depressing than throwing out unused extra herbs? Well, sure, there are plenty of more annoying things in the world, but still, why do it if you can help it?
You could use the ice cube tray trick, but ice cubes take a while to defrost, plus they are all the same size, so later in the month you may want 1 teaspoon or 1/4 cup pesto, and then those cubes might not work. I use a similar technique to the way I freeze tomato paste – smushed out in a thin layer in a zipper top freezer bag. So easy, takes up almost no space, and you break off pieces in the sizes you need, as you need them.
More ideas for this easy quick basil pesto? Pasta of course.
You will probably want to add some olive oil, and you might also want to top it with some shredded mozzarella or another cheese of your choice.
Use it in Couscous Salad with Shrimp, Roasted Tomatoes and Pesto Dressing. As a condiment in a sandwich.
Blended with fresh ricotta and spread onto a crostini. Spread over grilled lamb chops. Dripped over perfectly ripe tomatoes….
And check out 10 Things to Do With Leftover Pesto…..Fellow pesto-fans, what do you use it on?
Nut-Free Basil Pesto with Pecorino Romano
- 1 clove garlic roughly chopped
- 1 cup packed basil leaves
- ⅓ cup olive oil or more as needed
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- Kosher salt as needed
- Place the garlic and basil in a food processor or blender and pulse until everything is roughly chopped. Add the oil and pepper and process, scraping down the sides, part way through, until everything is well blended. If it is very thick, add a bit more olive oil. Add the cheese and pulse until blended in. Taste and add salt if needed.
Made this recipe? Post a photo of your delicious creation on Instagram with our hashtag #dinnersolved