Basil pesto is one of the most versatile kitchen staples for our family. Even though it does not belong to Indian cuisine, it deserves a honorable mention for sure.
While it is a very simple recipe there are some tip and tricks that you need to keep in mind to avoid common issues like bitterness, oxidization, etc.
How to avoid bitterness in your pesto?
- Make sure that you do not use the basil flowers. It is even better if you use a plant without flowers on them as basil tends to attain astringent properties as it ages.
- When grinding do not grind it into a very smooth paste and leave some texture.
- Grind in small bursts and do not let the oil emulsify. If the olive oil is emulsified when blending it, it releases bitter tasting polyphenols that make pesto bitter.
- Do not use the stems and only use the leaves of the plant.
How to fix bitter pesto?
In case the pesto turns out bitter and you are looking for ways to fix:-
- Add finely grated cheese to pesto so that it will mix well with the oil, nuts and basil. It will give a creamy base to the pesto and mask the bitter flavor.
- Add lemon juice to the pesto and that should reduce the bitterness as well.
How to preserve/store basil pesto? How long is it good for?
You can store basil pesto at room temperature for upto a week. If the olive oil quantity is less then you may notice oxidization and turning black.
It can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 weeks in an airtight container.
You can also freeze it for up to 3 months.
Make sure that when you take it out for consumption, you use a clean and dry spoon for it.
What is basil pesto used for?
Basil pesto like we mentioned is not a one trick pony at all. You can use it in pasta, dips, sandwiches, pizza, toast, bruschetta, salads, burgers.
What ingredients can be substituted when making pesto?
You can replace basil with any other leafy herb and make its pesto like coriander, mint, rocket etc.
The nuts are also very versatile for this recipe and you can replace the walnuts with pine nuts, cashews or almonds in the same ratio.
Olive oil is preferred but you can make it with regular oil too but that will affect the taste.
If you do not like cheese then you can omit it completely or you can use the variety you like. Ideally it is recommended to use parmesan as it goes best with it. I usually make it without using any cheese to keep the fat content low.
Is basil pesto vegan and gluten free?
The standard recipe for pesto calls for cheese so it is NOT vegan and may have traces of gluten.
However, the recipe in this blog post is how we make it at home and it does not use cheese and thus is vegan and gluten free.
Can you use dried basil leaves instead of the fresh ones?
No, you should not use dried basil leaves in place of the fresh ones because they are no where close in taste. Once dried the basil leaves loose their aroma and flavor very quickly.
Also, you will have to use copious amounts to be able to make a pesto out of dried basil leaves.
How to make basil pesto?
1 cup fresh basil leaves
3/4 cup walnut
3-4 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup of olive oil
Add these all to a chopper/grinder and pulse them together with some salt as per your taste.
Make sure that the motion is pulsing rather than blending so that the oil does not emulsify.
Basil Pesto – Vegan and Gluten Free
- 1 cup Fresh Basil Leaves
- 3/4 cup Walnut
- 3-4 cloves Garlic
- 1/2 cup Olive Oil
- Add these all to a chopper/grinder and pulse them together with some salt as per your taste.