Pesto wears many exciting hats:
It is traditionally based on most often based on basil, olive oil, and toasted walnuts.
But we have seen it recast with a different herb or nut, and tasting just as delicious and interesting. Use it not only as a pasta sauce but as topping for cooked chicken or fish, or a dip. I find that toasting the nuts intensifies the pesto’s flavor, so don’t skip that step!
Pesto keeps a good few weeks in the refrigerator
Boy you’ll be happy to take out that jar when you want pasta in a hurry. The olive oil preserves all other ingredients in the sauce, and keeps it fresh and vibrant.
Many of us can’t have nuts.
Does this mean we will never enjoy Pesto? Heaven Forbid, no it doesn’t. And this is always your chance to show off your resourcefulness: use seeds, play with all the variations in the recipe and get a different and exciting dish every time. Even no nuts or seeds altogether. You will love my sun-dried tomato pesto.
For that matter, many of us can’t have cheese
And here again, just as the nut-free variation, a no-cheese, 100% vegan variation works beautifully. Cheese need not be integral part of the pesto dish.
Scroll down for all exciting variations!
- 2 cups basil leaves, packed
- ½ cup good olive oil
- 1∕3 cup toasted walnuts (about 15 minutes in a preheated 300 °F oven)
- 4 garlic cloves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- I pound of your favorite pasta, including Gluten-Free Pasta, or Low-Carb Pasta, cooked according to the manufacturer's instructions, 1/2 cup of the cooking water reserved.
- 1/2 cup- 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan, optional
Process all pesto ingredients in a food processor until smooth but still a little chunky, not a complete paste. Toss with the pasta and reserved cooking water, and add the parmesan, if desired
Makes about 2 cups pesto sauce. If using later, store refrigerated in a glass jar.
In the same proportions:
- Substitute parsley, cilantro, mint, spinach, arugala, and watercress for the basil (I love the watercress-arugala combo)
- Substitute pecans, pine nuts, hazelnuts, and pistachios for the walnuts.
- Can't have nuts? USe toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds
- Add some freshly grated Parmesan. In this case, omit the salt.
- No nuts: Try my unbelievable Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto