Homemade Pesto- there’s one for everyone!

One of the best kinds of cooking of is the kind that is both simple and heaps better then shop bought.  (Also, one that the kids will eat…. don’t get me started on that one…..) This is definitely my experience of homemade pesto.   Mind you, I don’t source my food at Fortunum and Mason’s.  If I did then maybe, just maybe, the pesto would be as good as these.

Your Classic Green Pesto


For this you will need:

  • 100g roughly chopped coriander.     As far as i’m concerned that can include the stalks as well (but I’m a bit stingy)
  • 100g salted cashew nuts – that’s probably all the salt you’ll need because the cheese is salty as well.
  • 2 (more or less works according to taste) cloves of garlic
  • one quarter of a green chilli (or simply use chilli cashews if you can get them, or a pinch of chilli pepper)
  • 100g of parmesan.  The food blender will huff and puff over this, so chop or grate it first
  • 125ml of oil.  Most recipes for pesto suggest olive oil, and often extra virgin olive oil, but in my view it isn’t really necessary.  It’s not needed for the taste, nor is it needed here to give an authentic Italian feel as this isn’t particularly Italianate

ingredients for pesto

Of Note:

  • You can play fast and loose with the oil quantities.   You can use a lot less and simply have a less runny pesto, or even add a splash of water instead.  In other words, don’t let the amount of oil put you off trying this out.
  • All genuine Parmesan contains animal rennet making it unsuitable for vegetarians.  All the big supermarkets these days tend to stock “vegetarian hard cheese” which will make a perfectly good alternative.  Cheddar won’t though.  It isn’t hard enough – i’ve tried and ended up with a weird sandwich spread type concoction.  Edible, in an eighties retro way, but not very pesto-ey.


Well that’s the brilliant thing.  All you do is combine all the ingredients apart from the cheese in a food processor.   Mix them up to a rough consistency, then add the cheese.    Don’t over blend, so as to keep the individual flavours.   The amount of oil you add will determine the thickness.

What if you don’t have a food blender?   A hand blender would do the job but make sure you grate the cheese, chop up the herbs more finely and as for the nuts – put them in a freezer bag or old bread wrapper, seal the end and bash them with a rolling pin to chop them up.

The washing up is the most work you’ll do.

It keeps in the fridge for a week or two and freezes very well.

Don’t like pasta?

Have you ever tried Polenta and found it distinctly underwhelming? Try this:

Cook up 175g Polenta (enough for 4 people) as per the instructions.  Half way through the cooking, when all the water has been soaked up,  add 100g of cream cheese.   Keep stirring and at the end of the cooking time add roughly 125g of your pesto.  This polenta “mash” is full of flavour – albeit delicate ones, and being polenta , when it goes cold it will firm up and you can use it the day after either cold or warmed up under the grill or baked in the oven.

What about Pesto sandwiches?  Finding novel sandwich fillings can be a chore so why not try Pesto and sliced tomato or Pesto and black olives.

Your Not So Classic Nut Free Pesto


For this you will need:

  • 200g washed spinach – the fully grown adult leaf or baby will do.  Uncooked
  • 50g flat leaf parsley
  • 200g pumpkin seeds
  • 200g parmesan
  • 125ml oil
  • 50ml water
  • 2 or thereabouts cloves garlic
  • tiny pinch of salt,  but be careful – there may be enough simply with the cheese
  • a glug of lemon juice, more if it’s from Jiff, less if its direct from the lemon

Prepare as above, use as above, enjoy as above.

The only thing of note is whether or not to toast/roast the seeds.     The seeds are very tasty when roasted and this will add extra flavour to the pesto.  Heating the seeds will however destroy some of the nutrients in the seeds.  I’ll leave you to decide upon that one.

Red Pesto


For this you will need:

  • 350 of roasted red peppers
  • 50g almonds – roasted or raw.  If you only have flaked almonds – they work just as well as whole ones
  • 50g parmesan
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic depending upon how garlicky you like stuff
  • a good handful of Basil.  I know that’s vague but go on taste or how much you’ve actually got.  Unless your name is Nigella, there’s only so much Basil you can rustle up in the average kitchen
  • a good pinch of salt
  • 175 ml of a mixture of oil and water with a splash of wine vinegar


This one needs a bit more work.

Here goes:

Cut the red peppers in half, remove the stalks and seeds and roast them in the oven until the skins are blackened.  Next, place them in a freezer bag where they will sweat and cool and make removing the skins much easier.  Gently roast the almonds using a skillet or heavy bottomed saucepan.  Alternatively put them in the oven with the peppers but watch they don’t burn.

Combine all the ingredients in the food mixer and mix up to a thick paste.  This pesto lends itself to  being blended for longer to make it smoother.

Vegan Pesto

Pesto is now sauntering away  from its Italian roots.  And they are definitely Italian:  the word Pesto comes from the Italian verb Pestare which means to pound or to crush.

For this you will need:

  • 100g raw mushrooms
  • 100g drained sun dried tomatoes
  • 100g walnuts
  • 25g basil
  • 25g coriander
  • 50g roasted redskin peanuts
  • 250ml (approx) of a mixture of oil and water
  • a good pinch of salt
  • a glug of lemon juice (less if it’s fresh)
  • 2 cloves of garlic


Well to be honest you’ve probably worked it out by now.  But there are a couple of things.

If you have never encountered redskin peanuts, then they are unroasted peanuts still wearing their papery skins.  I buy mine in Asian Grocery shops and they are sold in Health Food shops but not usually in supermarkets.  Normal roasted peanuts would do the job but try to get raw ones.  I’ve noticed that roasting your own produces a flavour which is both enjoyable and entirely different to the ready roasted ones.  I have no idea why though.

The absence of cheese alters the consistency of the pesto and therefore the amount of oil/water is more significant. The less liquid you use, the closer you will come to vegetarian paté.   Not that it really matters. It’s not either/or, it’s more of a pesto-paté continuum that you’re on.

That’s all folks.




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