The fresh smell of basil, some garlic, olive oil and roasted nuts, ground to a paste with some parmesan cheese. The aroma from these blended simple ingredients can draw everyone into the kitchen. In the summer I usually have a bowl of pesto in the fridge. It is so versatile; can be added to pasta or vegetables/meat to make a sauce, it can be used on pizza as a topping and as a spread for sandwiches.
While I was making pesto, I was reminiscing my days in India when I made pesto. Pushpa, my helper, would ask me what this was and i would tell her it was a type of chutney. She would taste it, make a wry face and say in kannada, ‘I have no idea how you eat these things; they have no ‘uppu kaara’ (they have no spices- chutneys are supposed to b spicy)’. So I suppose this is an acquired taste but in our house, we love it.
Usually pesto is made with pine nuts. In this recipe I have used walnuts. Since we love pesto I have in my garden a variety of basils.I used a mix of basils including sweet basil and a Chef’s trio basil (one plant with Genovese, Purple, and Serrated basil). I also used a lot more walnuts and got a creamier version.
For a sundried tomato pesto check this out: https://chaiwithpreethi.com/2019/10/17/sun-dried-tomato-pesto/ and for a pesto with pinenuts check https://chaiwithpreethi.com/2018/10/09/thin-crust-home-made-pizza/
3 cups Italian basil
3-4 garlic cloves
1 cup walnuts
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (optional for vegan option: 2 tbsp nutritional yeast for cheese flavour )
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Toast nuts in a pan. Add the garlic while the nuts are toasting (I do not like to add raw garlic)
In a food processor or blender, add the basil, garlic, nuts and blend coarsely. Drizzle olive oil and continue pulsing until smooth. Add more oil if required (to make it healthier, you can add a few teaspoons of water instead). Add salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer pesto to a bowl and mix cheese (leave out for a non dairy or vegan option) or add cheese (or nutritional yeast) to the blender and give it a whizz. Cover with saran wrap or drizzle a layer of oil on it to avoid discoloration.