One of the most indispensable herbs in our garden, it’s tough to find a bad use for basil, and with the leaves at their peak in our part of the world, now is the perfect time to whip up a batch or two (or ten) of your very own homemade pesto. This year we were lucky to have a whole garden’s worth of this heavenly herb at our disposal, but if you’re short on garden space you can find wonderful fresh basil at your local market or grocery store.
This recipe calls for soy cheese in place of traditional Parmesan, but great results can be had by replacing the soy with nutritional yeast (use a bit less, as per the instructions below). Pesto is typically made with pine nuts, but toasted walnuts make an excellent and much more wallet-friendly replacement. If pesto is your thing, this recipe is king!
What You’ll Need
– 3 cloves garlic, peeled
– 1/2 c. toasted walnuts (or a combination walnuts & toasted sunflower seeds)
– 3 c. loosely-packed fresh basil leaves
– 1/2 c. grated Parmesan soy cheese (or 1/3 c. nutritional yeast)
– 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil (or more, to your taste)
– 1/2 t. kosher salt
– 1/2 t. black peppercorns
In a food processor, pulse garlic cloves with walnuts until ingredients are mixed and coarsely chopped. Add basil leaves and soy cheese (or nutritional yeast) and pulse again several times, until basil is well integrated into the mixture. Begin adding oil, 1/4 c. at a time, and pulse after each addition until the mixture is smooth and of your desired consistency. Add salt and pepper and blend in the processor a final time. Serve over pasta, toast rounds, crackers, pita chips, or use as a pizza sauce or dip for fresh veggies. Keep covered and refrigerated.
If you’re feeling a little nuts, try adding in some other fresh herbs to add some complexity to your pesto. Here we added a small handful of spearmint leaves to the finished product and blended – yum! Other fine additions might be oregano, sage, or tarragon, but this is really only the beginning of the possibilities.