I remember the first time I tried pesto. I distinctly recall looking at it and thinking, “Why would anyone voluntarily put this substance in their mouth?”
Then I ate it, and my life was forever changed.
Suddenly, I was eating pesto on everything. Pesto pasta. Pesto lasagne. Pesto pizza. Pesto bagels. Pesto pizza bagels. I was putting pesto on things I probably had no place putting pesto on. It was out of control.
Then I went vegan, realized pesto contained cheese, and abruptly resigned myself to a pesto-less life, figuring making your own pesto must be SO HARD. Lies. Pesto is probably the easiest sauce to make of all time. If you have a food processor and a pulse, you can make pesto. And since this vegan, nut-free variety contains no allergens that I’m currently aware of, you now have NO EXCUSE to deprive yourself of this sweet ambrosia among pasta sauces.
The key to perfect pesto is fresh fresh FRESH basil leaves. I love the smell of basil because it reminds me of the backyard herb garden we used to have when I was growing up, even though back then I thought all green things were icky. I still find many green things to be icky. Fortunately, basil is no longer of their number.
Basil forms the base of traditional pesto, but I would love it if someone tried this recipe with spinach, arugula, parsley, etc. and let me know how it turns out. Recipes are made to be fudged! And this particular recipe happens to be fudged from the good folks over at Beard and Bonnet. They have a lot of great gluten-free recipes, so be sure to check them out!
I’m not sure now whether I deserve thanks or blame for enabling former, current, and potential pesto addicts to fuel their leafy fixation. If it’s any consolation, being a pesto-head sure beats huffing paint. Easier on the sinuses, anyway.
P.S. You have GOT to try this on pizza!
2 c loosely packed fresh basil leaves, rinsed
3/4 c sunflower seeds *
3/4 c olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tbsp)
1/2 tsp of salt, to taste
pinch black pepper, to taste
1. Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and process until smooth (or desired consistency). Adjust seasoning to taste.
2. Store tightly covered in the fridge. This stuff oxidizes fast, so I also like to dab a little extra lemon juice on any exposed surfaces before storing. You can also cut a small piece of plastic wrap and press it directly onto the surface of the pesto before putting the lid on your container.
* I used raw, unsalted sunflower seeds and gave them a quick 400° toast before adding them. If you can’t find unsalted, you can also used roasted, salted sunflower seeds and just omit the additional salt.