Pesto without nuts – Easy Recipe for Pistou:
Why am I making pesto? Well, it’s that time of year. I have a full maternity ward of greenish tomatoes which appear to be heading for delivery at the same time. I have a marrow plant which, like some seedy London nightclub on a Friday night, has male flowers queuing up but not a single woman. And I have basil overwhelming my herb pot, shading the sun-loving rosemary – so what better than a fresh basil pesto. Pesto is a great way to use up a surplus of basil, especially as it can be frozen and used through the winter and this recipe for a nut-free pesto means that I have no need for the one ingredient I don’t generally have in my store cupboard (pine nuts). Apparently, nut-free pesto is standard across Italy except in Liguria and, in France, it is known as Pistou and also generally made without nuts.
All you need is fresh basil, parmesan or pecorino cheese, good quality extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Oh, and if like me you don’t often use a food processor or you prefer to make your pesto by hand, the traditional Italian way, then you need a largish pestle and mortar too. The point of using the pestle and mortar is that you are much more in control of how your pesto is prepared. At least in my heart, crushing the basil leaves gently will release a subtler, delicate flavour. And, the texture of a hand prepared pesto is quite different.
Lighter than the traditional Ligurian pesto I learnt to make at the World Pesto Championships a couple of years ago, nut-free pesto makes the perfect complement for summer pasta dishes, as a topping for a home-made burger, for tomato bakes or, as I did last night, as a sauce to bake fish in the oven. If you do want to make a traditional basil pesto the method is almost exactly the same, you simply add the pine nuts with the garlic at the start of the process.
Nut-free pesto is ultra easy to make and of course, you do have the option of using a pestle and mortar or whizzing this up in your food processor. I’d recommend trying the pestle and mortar option at least once because your pesto will have more depth of flavour and a better texture. But, if I was making a huge quantity, I’d probably give in and use a food processor too, though I’d probably still use a stick or wand blender with a plastic tumbler rather than a ‘put the lot in and press a button’ type. I’ve experienced the pesto from one of those and it’s more of a slurry than I like (or perhaps it was over processed?)
Here’s what to do.
- 70 g (3 cups) fresh basil leaves
- 40 g grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
- 40 ml extra virgin olive oil
- pinch salt
- 3 cloves garlic
- squeeze lemon juice (optional)
- Tear the basil into smallish shreds
- Put the peeled garlic cloves in a pestle and mortar with the salt and crush until you have a paste.
- Add the basil leaves in batches, crushing with the pestle until all the leaves are well blended with the garlic and salt and you have a paste.
- Add the grated cheese and mix
- Now pour over a little olive oil and blend well, using the base of the pestle.
- Continue adding olive oil until you have a thick 'sauce' of the desired consistency
- Taste and add more salt if necessary and a little lemon juice if desired.
Once you’ve made a batch of pesto it will keep in the fridge for a week or so. But, you can easily freeze it in an ice-cube tray, ready to use throughout the winter. Nut-free pesto is bursting with the flavours of summer, somehow not adding pine nuts creates a really fresh pesto – and it’s a great way to use up that glut of basil.
Thinking of trying my easy no nut pesto recipe yourself? Why not pin this post for later