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A couple weeks ago the basil in my garden was getting too big, so it was time to make a batch of pesto.
I used to only harvest my basil when I wanted some fresh, but I could never keep up with it and it always ended up bolting. Now, whenever it starts getting too big I prune it back hard, make a large batch of pesto, and freeze the leftovers. I have home-made pesto available most of the summer, and my basil doesn’t get out of control.
This year, in addition to my usual Genovese basil (back row in above photo), I decided to try “Pesto Perpetuo” basil as well (tricolor plant in foreground). It’s a beautiful addition to my garden, it doesn’t bolt, and I can’t tell a difference in taste between it and the Genovese.
The harvested basil (above) looks like a lot, but once the stems and old leaves have been removed, I have just four cups when tightly packed (below) – exactly enough for one large batch of pesto.
I use a salad spinner to clean the basil leaves quickly and easily.
Since I can’t have Parmesan cheese, I substitute nutritional yeast, and I honestly think the resulting pesto tastes just as good. I also substitute walnuts for pine nuts since walnuts are both more nutritious and less expensive.
Once the basil leaves are harvested and cleaned, the bulk of the work is done. All that remains is to process the ingredients in a food processor. When I’m making a big batch, I process about a third of each ingredient at a time, adding layers until everything is processed.
Since I also can’t have gluten, I toss the pesto with gluten-free pasta. My current favorite is Ancient Harvest, which tastes pretty darn close to regular pasta – my husband, who could eat regular pasta, is happy to eat it along with me. We also like to use pesto as a sandwich spread.
After one meal for the two of us, plus a third serving for my lunch at work the next day, there’s enough leftover pesto to fill one ice cube tray for freezing. I have an ice cube tray dedicated for this purpose, and wrap it in plastic before putting it in the freezer. The beauty of this method is that you can pop out and thaw however many pesto cubes you need at a time.
Makes about one pint of pesto. Enjoy on pasta (gluten-free or regular), or use as a sandwich spread.
- 4 cups fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
- 1 cup walnuts
- 3 or more cloves garlic (to taste), roughly chopped
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- Juice of 1 lemon, freshly squeezed
- Sea salt and fresh ground pepper (to taste)
- Remove the stems and old leaves from the basil and wash the leaves. (I use a salad spinner to wash the basil leaves quickly and easily.)
- Place about 1/3 of the basil leaves, walnuts, and garlic in a food processor fitted with an S blade. Drizzle with about 1/3 of the olive oil and pulse to combine until the mixture is coarsely ground. Repeat until all the basil, walnuts, garlic and olive oil have been processed.
- Add the nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and salt and pepper, and pulse just until combined.
If you try this recipe, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!