Homemade Pesto – a naturally gluten-free condiment & seasoning
Pesto is a great condiment to have ready-made to add to dishes that require an Italian touch and a boost in flavour of garlic, basil, cheese and toasted nuts.
Making homemade pesto is by far the best and cheapest way of having an ongoing supply to retrieve from the refrigerator when a recipe calls for it.
Pesto taught to me by my grandmother
One of the first dishes my Argentine/Italian grandmother showed me how to make, was Pesto. With her Piemonte background, she explained that the northern region of Italy traditionally uses locally grown walnuts in pesto. The south use pine nuts for the same reason.
This style of pesto is the most traditional pesto sauce, as pesto originated in Genoa. The word pesto came from the Genoese word pestâ which means “to pound”, precisely how pesto is made traditionally by using a mortar & pestle, however, in our modern kitchens, a food processor or any other blender works wonders!
Which nuts should I use?
Nowadays as pine nuts are so expensive, I lean towards more realistically priced nuts. I am not a fan of walnuts in pesto as their skins can impart a slightly bitter taste. Taking the skin off is not fun, so I experimented with other nuts and found almonds to be a great substitute. Removing their skins is more straightforward by blanching the nuts in boiling water and refreshing them in cold water. The skins should slip off easily. Otherwise, most supermarkets sell them skinned. Cashews work well too, so most of the time, I use both nuts in my pesto.
Fresh Basil Leaves & Olive Oil
When preparing pesto, try to buy or harvest the best basil leaves from your garden. Any leaves with spots or deformed shouldn’t be used. Also, invest in a good quality extra-virgin olive oil.
How to use pesto
I try to have a jar of homemade pesto in the fridge on an ongoing basis. It’s perfect in pasta & gnocchi dishes.
Adding a spoonful in dips, salad dressing and butter really livens them up.
Try spreading the pesto directly onto bread as a sandwich filling instead of mayonnaise or mustard. Toasted sandwiches with pesto as in Gluten-Free Focaccia Sandwiches, taste even better as the pesto oozes out and gives off a wonderful garlic-basil aroma and flavour.
- Food processor, or
- Thermomix, or
- Electric stick blender
- Small sterilised glass jar
- 100 g mixture of almonds and cashews, whole & skins removed
- 40-60 g fresh basil leaves
- 3 garlic cloves, whole
- 150 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 20 g Parmesan cheese, grated
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- ½ tsp chilli flakes (optional)
- Gather and measure all the pesto ingredients.
- Roast the nuts in a dry pan over medium heat, stirring often until slightly golden.
- Allow to cool down and set aside. This is important as hot nuts can scorch the basil leaves and impart a bitter taste.
- Blend the garlic cloves and basil leaves. Pulse a few times and scrape the mixture down from the sides.
- Add the cool nuts and pulse a few times until crushed evenly into a breadcrumb consistency.
- Select the lowest blending setting and slowly add the olive oil. The oil should be slightly floating on top of the pesto mixture. Otherwise, add a few more tablespoons to get to this level.
- Add the lemon juice, cracked pepper and optional chilli flakes.
- Add the grated Parmesan cheese.
- Taste and add more lemon juice, black pepper or cheese, if needed.
- Transfer the pesto to a sterilised jar.
- Pour a little extra olive oil on top of the pesto in the jar. This keeps it from drying out and turning brown.
- Keeps for 2 weeks chilled
- Not suitable to freeze
TIPMAKING PESTO SHOTS Pour the pesto mixture into an ice cube tray. Once frozen, remove them and store them in a freezer bag for easy access and return them to the freezer. I use these frozen PESTO SHOTS as a convenient flavour addition to warm dishes like soups, casseroles and sauces.
Try alternative pesto ingredients by adding fresh rocket/arugula leaves, sundried tomatoes or/and roasted red peppers.
If you are happy to pay for the high price of pine nuts, these taste amazing in pesto. Walnuts with their skins already removed are also a good nut alternative to use.