Before you click “x” out of this blog, give me a chance to explain. Just because the name of this recipe has the word “vegan” in it, doesn’t mean this recipe is necessarily meant to be healthy. My version of pesto leaves out Parmigianino Reggiano, not out of a vendetta against cheese and dairy. I adore pesto recipes that include this amazingly full-bodied and complex cheese. The only issue is I typically do not have good quality Parmigianino Reggiano on hand. As a resourceful cook, I try to make do with what I have. I think it builds creativity and problem solving skills when you have to whip something up in a pinch using only the ingredients that are already in your kitchen. Try it out. You’d be surprised what you come up with! That is how this pesto recipe came about: I used what was available and ended up with something quite delicious.
Summertime brings about one of my favorite food seasons-I love the basil, the tomatoes, the berries, the melons….oh my goodness, the sweet sweet nectar of perfectly ripe yellow fuzzy peaches. Summertime usually means grilling, salads, and all things fresh to contrast the hot weather. Tonight for dinner I made a simple appetizer comprised of ooey gooey burrata cheese, splashed with balsamic vinegar, and served with heirloom baby tomatoes and my homemade pesto. That is going to the star of this post. I love love love pesto of all kinds, but my favorite is the Genovese style basil one. Traditional pesto uses pine nuts as the nut of choice. However, pine nuts are considerably more expensive than almonds, walnuts, and other nuts that I tend to have in my pantry. My version is a variation of the traditional basil pesto.
I hate it when my pesto turns brown due to oxidation from exposure to air. A quick tip is that I use a good splash of lemon juice in my pesto recipe to prevent browning. Not only does the lemon juice preserve the vibrant green color of the basil, it also adds a note of brightness that uplifts the pesto and rounds out its symphony of flavors.
I would advise against cooking the pesto or heating it up because that also threatens the integrity of the delicate basil. If you’d like to mix it into pasta, I’d recommend tossing the pesto with the pasta in a cool bowl, or drop it into your pan for a quick few seconds before serving. To me, there is nothing worse than oxidized pesto. Yuck!
Since making pesto creates such a mess in my kitchen, I like to make this stuff in larger batches. Place into a sealed container and cover with saran wrap. Place it in your freezer and you’ll always have pesto ready to go for yummy Italian recipes.
Suggested uses: You can add pesto to your pasta, use it as a base for a vinaigrette, mix it with mayonnaise to create a delicious aioli, serve it with fresh tomatoes on bruschetta, spread it with your favorite soft cheese, or just eat it by the spoonful.
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 cloves fresh garlic
juice of ½ small lemon
1 cup toasted almonds
½ c olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
- Place basil, garlic, lemon juice, almonds, and olive oil into a food processor and allow the mixture to blend until it becomes a smooth paste. You may need to mix things up with a spoon to get the mixture going.
- Drizzle more oil if necessary
- Season with salt and pepper to taste