Friday, April 22, 2011

Homemade Pesto with Sunflower Seeds

I have managed to keep 3 big basil plants alive throughout the winter. I went to see them today and they were starting to seed, I needed to pinch them and I was hungry and they were big...... so it was Pesto time!!!

I really like Pesto, I am surprised I do not make it more often as it is quite easy to make if you have the ingredients on hand. If you are a food lover like me, you probably will have Pesto ingredients in your fridge: Basil, olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, some type of nuts and salt. The original pesto is made with pine nuts (those I do not normally have and they can be quite expensive), but you can make pesto out of every nut. Each one will give your pesto a subtle change in taste. Today I made it with sunflower seeds and it was delicious. The walnut version is also quite tasty.

So here is the recipe:


  • Bunch of Basil leaves (no stalks)
  • Half a cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I used my home infused garlic olive oil)
  • 2 or 3 fresh garlic cloves or 6 preserved garlic cloves (see my recipe here)
  • Half a cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup of nuts (pine nuts, sunflower seeds, walnuts, pistachios...)
  • Salt to taste

You can do pesto on your blender or on your electric chopper.

Put half of the basil in the blender, with half of the rest of the ingredients and blend until you get a smooth paste, put the other half of the basil and start adding the rest of the ingredients a little at a time so you can taste in between and can judge how much to use of each. Use the olive oil to thin the paste, the nuts to add crunch, the garlic for flavor and the cheese for saltiness. Keep adding and trying until you have the right balance and thickness for you.

I like mine quite thick as I like to use it as a spread and it uses less oil (so I think it is better for me).

Once you are done, put the pesto on an airtight container, you can use it right away or store for up to a week in the refrigerator. When you store it, a thin layer on the top of your pesto will darken a little, that is OK, just mix it all up with a spoon and you are good to go.

Pesto is great with pastas. I used it today as a topping on my spaghetti marinara. We also had pizza night and I spread pesto all over my slices! Remember, pesto is very concentrated, so a little goes a long way.

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