I love pesto, but it can be expensive. Usually things are cheaper if you decide to make it yourself–pesto is not one of those things. Pine nuts are expensive, then you have to use fresh basil, then you need fresh Parmesan if you want cheese. I’m a cheap ass and all that is already too much for me. One day I had a craving for pesto and decided to be stupid and buy the kind in a jar. Big mistake. For one, most of them have a ridiculous amount of fillers. I bought one that had as few ingredients as possible and it tasted like cheap oil. It was my fault. You shouldn’t expect fresh taste from a jar that you didn’t jar yourself.
So on my second pesto attempt I decided, fine, I’ll compromise. This pesto uses sunflower seeds and cashews instead of pine nuts, which are a whole lot cheaper. Even cheaper if you just use sunflower seeds. You can use any nuts you have on hand–walnuts, pecans, almonds, pistachios–this recipe is open to experimentation.
To see the blended version go to Sunflower Cashew Pesto (part 2).
2 cups fresh basil (30 g, can use up to 60 g)
2-4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup cashew seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 lemon (juice)
2 tbsp olive oil
Soak your cashew nuts and sunflower seeds for at least one hour, you can even do it overnight but I never plan that far ahead. This is a step you shouldn’t skip. Do a little experiment. Try a seed/nut before you soak and after, notice the flavor difference? Magic! Or science, whatever.
Near the end of your soaking time, turn your attention to your basil. I’m only using 30 g because I’m using basil that I grew myself (I’m not bragging or nothing) and that’s all my plant had to give. If I had had more I would have used it, up to 60 g.
Now here’s where you have a decision to make. I decided to not use a food processor (mostly because I don’t own one) or a blender because I wanted this recipe to be accessible to those who don’t own such appliances. I thought to myself, people have been making pesto long before such appliances existed so why not give it a shot.
Because we’re not using an electronic device to mince our basil we want to cut it as finely as possible. I start by doing a chiffonade, which is stacking a few leaves on top one another, rolling them tight like a cigar, then cutting them in strips. From there I mince.
Chiffonade all your basil and chop your garlic. Start with 2 cloves and add more later if you want it more garlicy.
Juice half a small lemon onto your basil leaves to prevent browning.
Combine your garlic and basil, mincing.
Rinse your seeds/nuts.
Add them to your basil/garlic chopping as you did before. If you only have 2 cups of basil and you don’t want it to be as nutty as mine then consider only using 1/4 cup total of sunflower seeds/cashew nuts.
As you’re chopping here add 1 tbsp of olive oil.
Near final product.
I took about 1/3 of my chopped mixture and added it to my mortar and pestle and mashed it with 1 tbsp of oil to cream up the final mixture a bit.
Reincorporate your mashed mixture with your chopped. I don’t add that much oil in my pesto mix because I like to add it in later, up to you though. Salt to taste.
As for serving I added about half of my pesto mixture to some sauteed mushrooms and spinach, 8 oz noodles, 1 oz Parmesan cheese, and drizzled it with olive oil.
And the next day I put it in an omelet with some Parmesan cheese, spinach, and sun dried tomatoes.