Basil pesto is a great way to enjoy the bounty of the summer garden. This frugal basil presto recipe is made with just a few flavorful ingredients. To keep costs down, we swapped out expensive pine nuts for pecans.
The flavor is still bold, as basil pesto should be, and the cost is quite inexpensive.
What is pesto?
Pesto is basically and herb paste that is made by blending herbs with oil. Basil pesto originated in Genoa, Italy and actually means “crushed”. Which makes since traditionally the pest ingredients were crushed together in a mortar and pestle.
Basil pesto is traditionally made with basil, garlic, olive oil, parmesan and pine nuts. However, pesto can really be made with almost any green – spinach, carrot tops, arugula, etc. There is seven an Asparagus Chipotle pesto in The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables.
Pesto can be pretty expensive even when you make it yourself – a small bag of pine nuts sell here for $4 then add in the cost of olive oil and Parmesan and you’ve spent a pretty penny. Because of that, some people replace the pine nuts with walnuts. Since we grow pecans, I make our basil pesto with pecans instead of pine nuts. No one could tell the difference.
Food processor or blender?
While you can certainly make basil pesto with a mortar and pestle, most people will want to use a small appliance to do the work. Both a food processor and a blender work but the texture will be a little different. The food processor will chop the ingredients while the blender will make the ingredients smoother. Both ways are good, so just use whatever you have.
If you’re using a blender, I suggest pulsing the pecans and garlic cloves first, then adding the olive oil, basil, parmesan and lemon juice (if using), and pulse some more. This will keep the pesto from getting super smooth.
During the summer I’ll make a jar or two of pesto most weeks. I make it right in the jar and then freeze it in the jar. To thaw, you can put it in the refrigerator for a few hours. If you’re in a hurry, like we always are on pizza night, you can put it in the microwave for about 15 seconds at a time. Just watch it, you don’t want to cook it.
You can also put the pesto in an ice cube tray and then freeze it. After it’s frozen solid pop the cubes out of the ice cube tray and put them in a freezer safe container. This is good if you don’t use pesto very often and just need a spoonful at a time. To thaw you’ll need to put the cube in a bowl.
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- 1 cup basil leaves - firmly packed
- 1/2 cup pecans
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
- 4-5 cloves garlic (we really like garlic, feel free to use less)
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
- Place pecans and garlic into a blender or food processor and pulse.
- Add the basil leaves, olive oil, Parmesan and lemon juice (if using) and pulse more.
- Put the pesto in a jar and make sure that there is some oil floating on the top to keep it from browning.
- Use within a week or store in the freezer.
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