I love the smell of fresh basil, and the best thing to make when you have a lot of fresh basil is… fresh pesto! It’s great on pasta and flat bread pizza, as well as stirred into lightly stir-fried veggies. It’s also awesome in minestrone soup, which I’ll share in my next post. For now, I’ll share my vegan pesto recipe, and how I make it last so that I can enjoy it any time of the year.
The trick to good pesto is to use high-quality, fresh ingredients. Fresh basil is obviously key, but you should also use the best olive oil that you can afford. Extra-virgin olive oil that has been cold-pressed is your best choice. I’m using one that I picked up during my last visit to the Hunter Valley here in Australia. It’s got a beautiful clean, nutty, fresh taste. This is the type of olive oil that you should be using for all your cooking (bonus if you can find organic). Forget those huge plastic jars of olive oil from Costco. It’s garbage and won’t bring out the true flavor of your food. I’m also using organic pine nuts, which are optional, but which I highly recommend, as they add a rich nutty taste to the pesto.
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- ½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- Blend all ingredients using a food processor or immersion blender.
- Serve immediately, or distribute in an ice cube tray, seal in a freezer-safe bag, and freeze for up to 3 months.
You’ll notice how 2 packed cups of basil only ends up making 1/4 cup of pesto. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, a little goes a long way, so I like to freeze part of my batch by using an ice cube tray – a little trick that my mother taught me. After filling the tray with the amount of pesto that I want to freeze, I place it in a freezer-safe zipper bag and set it in a safe spot in my freezer. After the pesto has set, you can pop-out and defrost your pesto as needed. If you need your ice tray back sooner, you can just pop the frozen cubes directly into the freezer-safe zipper bag or a plastic container and place it back in the freezer. This is a great way to have “fresh” pesto at any time, and it tastes way better than any of the store-bought stuff that is full of preservatives. I used to do this all the time in Canada with fresh basil grown in my garden, so I would have “fresh” pesto into early winter, when fresh basil is difficult to find and very expensive. This full recipe makes between 11-12 small pesto cubes.