Monday, August 17, 2009

It's Not Pesto, It's Pistou!

We've all heard of basil pesto, but what I actually make is basil pistou. It's simple really. You basically take your pesto recipe and omit the nuts and cheese. I make mine this way because A) Annie is allergic to nuts and B) I like to freeze the pesto, and it freezes slightly better without the grated cheese. The cheese isn't difficult to add later when you are cooking with the pesto. I have tried blanching the basil briefly before adding it to the food processor as this is supposed to help keep the pesto a brilliant green, but I've also read that it can lose some of its flavor too so I chose not to blanch this time. I recommend using a food processor rather than a blender and, if you're a purist, you can make it with your mortar and pestle. Let's just say I'm not a purist - the food processor was invented for a reason!

My favorite ways to use basil pesto or pistou:
1. Spread the pistou without the nuts and cheese onto rolled out pizza dough, and then top with any combination of roasted vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, red peppers, red onions) and cheese before baking. It's my favorite pizza combination!
2. Add some grated Parmagiano Reggiano cheese and use the nut-less pesto to coat some chicken tenderloins before sauteeing in a grill pan. It's super fast and the kids love it. The melted parmesan gives the chicken a delicious brown crust.
3. Add the cheese and nuts if you like, and add a tablespoon or two of pesto and some heavy cream to cooked pasta. Thin with pasta water if necessary.
4. Spread some pesto or pistou on bruschetta and top with roasted peppers and goat cheese for a fantastic appetizer.
5. Put some pesto on your grilled cheese and tomato sandwich.
6. Drizzle some pesto over sauteed zucchini and onions or roasted vegetables for a simple and delicious side dish.
7. Swirl a dollop of pistou onto tomato or red pepper soup for a simple but impressive garnish.
8. Google it! There are a thousand more uses for pesto!

The basil in my garden is fantastic and abundant this year! I love the shiny green color !

So I have two questions for you:
What's your favorite way to use pesto?
Do you prefer pine nuts or walnuts?

One year ago: Fresh Plum Frangipane Tart

from The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins
Note: Omit the nuts and cheeses if making pistou

2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and dried (I use a lettuce spinner)
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 cup shelled walnuts
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Combine the basil, garlic, and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor.
2. Leave the motor running and add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream.
3. Shut the motor off, add the cheeses, a big pinch of salt and a liberal grinding of pepper. Process briefly to combine, then transfer to a bowl and cover until ready to use.
4. You may freeze the pesto in jars placing a small piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pesto. Or spoon into a plastic wrap-lined ice cube trays and transfer to a ziploc bag when frozen.


  1. So strange, i just noticed I was booted off your follow list and now it won't let me back on! I wonder if there is a following limit?

  2. Funny, when it comes to pesto, I mostly stick with pine nuts, despite their expense. However, I have no problem combining other green herbs with the basil. In fact, I rarely use just basil, most often using about 2/3 basil and the remainder either flat-leaf parsley or arugula, the latter being my favorite.

    This recipe - - is a perfect use of a pistou and zucchini. Perfect summer time food, either a small portion with a steak or alone as a main course.

  3. I make this all the time! I didn't know it was called Pistou, but we enjoy it all winter long. I simply freeze 1 cup or so in a quart sized freezer bag, and completely flatten it while letting all the air out before closing the bag. This way, the flat frozen disks don't take up any room in the freezer, and the best part is, you just snap off a piece when needed. The rest goes right back in the freezer! I like to snap off a piece and mix it with a little mayo,garlic,parmesan cheese,salt and pepper for a basil aioli to put on grilled chicken sandwiches.



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