The last time I made a pesto at home (i.e., not at work) that actually contained pine nuts was probably, oh, 2010-ish? That’s my best guess. I have nothing against pine nuts, to be clear, other than the fact that they’re just so. damn. expensive.
$31.89/lb for raw pine nuts whereas raw walnuts, for example, are $16.99/lb. Still pricey, but I find that purchase easier to reconcile than I do pine nuts. It’s not to say I won’t, and don’t, buy other pricey items, because I do. They just always seem to be dairy based, like cheese and butter. $8.99 for some burrata? Take my money! $6.99 for a pound of Plugra? Yes, please.
I guess what I’m trying to say is: it’s a compromise. Sure, pine nuts add a distinctive flavor to pesto that make it undeniably just so, but, when it comes to pesto, I’m not so adamant about precision that I cannot fathom replacing them with almonds or walnuts, or something even cheaper that I always have on hand, ahem, sunflower seeds, which are a fraction of the cost at $2.99/lb. There are many fine replacements/swaps that will make a fine pesto, which still leaves me enough leeway dollars to grab that sweet, creamy burrata and not have to buy string cheese and just dream. Hell, you can even leave the nuts/seeds out all together and still make pesto. Stringency be damned!
I pretty much like to have some iteration of pesto around all year long. I've been buying hydroponically grown basil from my local health food in these off-months. I make it once a week as soon as basil becomes readily available in the warmer months, and towards the end of summer, when things start winding down, I buy big, imperfect bunches of it from two cool dudes at the farmer’s market. They’re so nice they often throw in a free bunch, especially if it’s close to closing time. And they almost always throw a few extra squash blossoms into my bag, too. Those gentlemen are a true delight.
I don’t like to waste time, and to be honest, there’s usually a bug or two in the basil bunches, so once I'm home I pluck the leaves right away into a salad spinner and give them a good rinse in cold water to get rid of any grit or gross garden hitchhikers, and then a light spin before tumbling them out onto some paper towels or a dish towel to air dry for a bit while I start getting everything else together.
I think my favorite way to eat pesto is on bread of any kind. Especially with tomatoes, and maybe some of that burrata. It’s a nice topper to bruschetta, too. It's obviously great on homemade pizza. Ryan loves to slather it onto grilled corn instead of butter. Of course it’s nice on pasta. And in mayo, as well, either as a dipping sauce for potatoes or as a marinade for grilled chicken. Holy smokes, I made that last summer and it blew both of our minds. Om nom nom.
And, if you’re feeling adventurous, and/or thrifty, don’t stop at basil! Got cilantro you bought but didn’t use quickly enough and now it’s starting to wilt? Toss that in there too! Or some parsley! Hell, go crazy, skip the herbs, and make a sundried tomato pesto instead! Mmm. I haven’t made one of those in ages and now I think I’m due. Thanks for the reminder! The truth is, outside of its traditional Genovese form, pesto is a wish your heart makes, when you take some foods and chop or blend them into smaller particles, adding enough oil to make it saucy. It’s a happy food for me. It tastes like summer. It’s my favorite color. It’s a tad sweet and fruity, between the basil and the olive oil, though truthfully the basil also brings a tinge of funk, which I find keeps me wanting more. Then throw in cheese, nuts, and salt? Mmmmm, savory goodness. Plus a nice slick of fat from the olive oil that just begs for a carb vehicle to soak it up which I will absolutely, kindly oblige. Especially since I’m still very much into the quarantine bread baking, more so now than ever, even.
Yield: ≅ ¾ cup
Hello! I'm Kat.
Cooker, baker, amateur pottery maker.
I'm a CIA graduate (culinary arts & applied food studies) who previously studied anthropology.
Food obsessed. Anxiety disorder. Grief bearer.
Here you'll find recipes for what I'm currently feeling and sometimes even why!