Friday, September 23, 2011
My Favorite Pesto
Now that I have a food processor, I find that making pesto is SO much easier than when I used my blender. This pesto contains no cheese, but the nuttiness from the toasted walnuts and the nutritional yeast give it the perfect balance of flavor. Nutritional yeast makes an excellent vegan substitute for Parmesan because of its slightly salty, cheesy and nutty flavor. It is I do like to take the extra time and toast the walnuts in the oven to really bring out their flavor. You may, of course, use pine nuts as well, but I find I have walnuts on hand more often, since they are a bit less expensive. The pesto pictured about was made with minimal olive oil (roughly 1/4 cup) and so it is quite thick - perfect for tossing into warm pasta. I do sometimes add more oil (1/2 - 3/4 cup) to make the pesto more spreadable (or drizzle able), in order to top grilled bread, or use as a garnish.
MY FAVORITE PESTO
3 cups basil leaves
1/2 cup walnut halves (or the traditional pine nuts)
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 cup olive oil, or more to get the blended consistency you like
2 teaspoons lemon juice (optional)
1/8-1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
To toast walnuts: Preheat oven to 350
Spread nuts on baking sheet and toast for 5-10 minutes, or until fragrant.
Add toasted walnuts to food processor, and pulse until crumbly.
Add basil leaves and garlic and pulse to combine.
Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth, be sure to scrape down the sides of your bowl to combine evenly.
Check for salt, and adjust as needed.
Pesto can then be used in your favorite pasta recipe, or stored in the fridge an airtight container for up to a week.
You may also freeze your pesto in ice cube trays, and then transfer the cubes to zip lock bags, to enjoy the bright beautiful taste of pesto throughout the Winter!
** For my Italian heritage, a bit of history for you ^_^
Traditional pesto hails from the Liguria region in Northwest Italy. It is here, in the thriving port city of GENOVA, where the infamous 'Pesto Genovese' gets its name. One reason this sauce was (and still is) so popular in the region of Liguria is because of the mineral-rich seaside soil and temperate climate, perfect for growing beautiful, green basil. Old Italian legend has it that pesto got its name from the way it was traditionally prepared: with a mortar and pestle (mortaio e pestello). With a gentle turn of the wrist, sweet basil leaves are squeezed with garlic, pine nuts and olive oil against a ceramic mortar and wooden pestle. While this slow, yet deliberate process gently coaxed the flavors from the basil, oil, and pine nuts, most modern day cooks prefer the help of a blender or food processor.
I actually do have a lovely marble mortar and pestle. It sits on my counter, more as a decoration than a kitchen tool. Perhaps one day, when I am feeling a bit rustic, I will bust it out, and grind me some pesto the authentic way! ^_^