Vibrant green, rich, herbaceous, packed full of that wonderful fresh sweet basil flavour, tempered with extra virgin olive oil which highlights the basil, enriched with savory elements from garlic, nuts, miso, and a touch of nutritional yeast….Forget the dairy, this is way better! (Also, you won’t miss it one tiny bit) During the colder months (when fresh basil tends to be way more pricey and not nearly as flavourful) i always crave a little bit heartier pesto, so this version is my “winter version” which is a bit richer and saltier, as well as being creamier from the addition of more nuts. It is still PACKED with basil, so don’t worry, it just has a little more body and oomph, letting you get a little more bang for your buck when basil prices are high and it’s harder to find quality basil.
225g | 8oz basil leaves (no stems!)*
40g chopped garlic
30g/ml | 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
15g | 1 Tbsp miso
75g | ½ cup pine nuts
2.5g | 1 tsp nutritional yeast
60g | ½ cup coarse chopped walnuts
120g/130ml | ½ cup olive oil
Salt to taste (start with ¼ tsp)
*if blanching the basil, see below
Blend/process together all but basil and olive oil until you have a coarse paste
Roughly chop the basil and add to processor/blender and pulse until you have a coarse paste and the basil is all equal size, but distinct pieces
With machine running (on a low speed if using a blender) drizzle the olive oil in a steady stream and continue blending until pesto is the texture you want (basil pieces should be very small but still distinct enough to see the individual pieces)
Store for up to a week in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer
*blanching the basil (highly recommended):
Bring a large pot of water to a light boil
While that’s warming up, fill a large bowl with cold water and some ice, you can place a strainer or colander into the bowl to keep you from having to pick out the ice pieces from the basil later
Turn off the heat on the water and throw in your basil, stirring and swirling (gently!) to make sure they blanch evenly, after 10 seconds remove them with a slotted spoon of strainer and plunge into the ice water
Swirl them about in the iced water for just a few second and then strain them out, pat them dry and continue with the recipe
Nothing too strange here, there’s a ton of basil (of course), extra virgin olive oil, which i recommend picking one that’s more on the buttery side for this and not quite as grassy tasting, walnuts AND pine nuts, the walnuts provide a nice rich creaminess and sort of fill in a little for the parmesan. Garlic for added depth and bite, aka (red) miso for some savory fermented elements (replacing that role parm usually plays), a little lemon juice for moisture and acidity, pine nuts….because what’s a good pesto alla genovese without pine nuts?! you can sub almonds, or more walnuts if you must, but the astringent, pine-like, buttery qualities of pine nuts really work so incredibly wonderful with basil. Finally (and it’s not pictured up there) is just a touch of nutritional yeast to really enhance that savory richness and cheesiness from the miso.
I usually choose to blanch my basil, which helps to deactivate the enzymes in the leaves that cause it to oxidise quicker and turn a dull colour rather than staying vibrant green, while also helping to pull out any bitter elements that may be in older leaves. This is totally optional, you can do it or not, but it only takes a few minutes of time and if you’re not going to use all the pesto right away (and especially if you’re freezing some) i highly highly recommend it. You just bring some water to a light boil or heavy simmer, turn off the heat, drop in your basil leaves, swirl them around for about 10 seconds, then plunge them into iced water. You then drain them (or give them a spin in a salad spinner) and pat them dry and go about your way.
This all come together really easy. You start by blending up everything but your basil and oil into a coarse paste. You can use a blender, but be careful, it is very easy to over process the basil in a blender and bring out some unpleasant bitter grassy notes, you don’t want it to be a super fine puree, it should be more of a coarse texture, where you can still easily make out the flecks of basil.
After you have your starting paste, simply roughly chop your basil (blanched or unblanched) and pulse until the basil is chopped up evenly and in relatively small pieces. Then you simply drizzle in the oil while the machine is running, continue until the pesto is the texture you like, and voila! you’re done! Pesto is always best fresh, or within a day or two, but you can store it in the fridge (tightly covered) for about a week, or freeze it for about 2-3 months without the flavour totally crapping out on you.
My fave use for basil pestos is always pizza and flatbreads, it’s so friggin delicious! I seriously can eat a ridiculous amount on pizza. It’s frightening. Something about that insanely bright green oil pooling and dripping and…..mmmmmm….
Of course you can always toss it with pasta, put a dollop on soups to liven them up, use it to make a salad dressing, use it for flavouring roasted vegges…..really it’s good on just about everything. So go crazy. Reckless abandon is welcome here.