Pesto means pounded (where the word pestle comes from), giving us a clue to the ancient beginnings of this famous sauce. We can make it with fresh basil, as in Genoa, where it originated, but also parsley, wild garlic leaves, spinach and kale. Pine nuts are traditional too but can be expensive, so substitute with peanuts, almonds or cashews.
Stay local with rapeseed oil instead of olive oil, or sunflower oil for a lighter texture, though olive oil works best for me.
Parmesan and Pecorino Sardo provide bite and creaminess. Dried out cheddar and fresh cheddar will do at a pinch for immediate use. And don’t forget to buzz the rinds of cheese in a blender or grate until fine.
Allow 50g each of cheese and nuts to 150g oil, two garlic cloves and a large bunch of basil leaves. Properly sealed homemade pesto with a skim of oil on top will keep for months. It can be frozen, too without the nuts, which can be added after defrosting for better texture. Around 10% protein makes this a good match for pasta’s carbs, and there are added benefits of the greens, oil and garlic.
It was easy to eliminate quite a few jars from our Top 8 as they were grainy and stringy, some with little flavour. Happily, we found many decent examples to add to our cupboards.