Pesto is one of those delightfully simple, versatile ingredients that can take the blandest foods from 0 to 60 in 1.5 spoonfuls per second. While common ideas of pesto stem from the traditional idea of pine nuts, basil, oil and garlic, the term is actually more vague than that. It actually comes from the Italian word for pounding/grinding – the same root as pestle and mortar, the tool in which pesto was traditionally made. Of course, in the age of food processors who has time for that? Not me.
With this in mind, I decided to have a little fun with pesto. Having a bag full of pumpkin seeds left over from garnishing the Butternut Squash recipe, and a decent amount of Goats Cheese kicking about I decided to give this a go. As well as being suitable for those with nut-allergies, pumpkin seeds are packed with magnesium, zinc and omega-3. As for Goats Cheese…well, I just love Goats Cheese.
While I give suggestions on ratios below, remember that this is your pesto. The beauty with this kind of thing is after each step you can take a look and make adjustments to your liking. If you worry you’ll put in too much cheese, just put in half at first and decide based on what happens.
In terms of ratios – I would say roughly equal volumes of seeds, cheese and herbs (balance to your liking). The garlic, lemon and seasonings are to taste.
- Pumpkin Seeds (hulled – the dark kind you’ll find in shops)
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- Goats Cheese (the firmer the better)
- Fresh Basil Leaves
- Fresh Italian Parsley
- Garlic Clove
- Salt and Pepper
- Lemon Zest
- Begin by pulsing the seeds on and off for about half a minute, until they’re fairly finely chopped.
- Add the cheese and lemon zest and blitz until nicely combined.
- Add the herbs and garlic and repeat – I would advise using one garlic clove here and then tasting at the end to see if you need any more.
- Add the olive oil a little at a time, mixing in thoroughly each time before tasting and checking texture. You don’t want to olive oil flavour to overpower, and the texture should be to your personal preference. Some like a very wet pesto. If the oil power is too much but the mixture too dry, maybe add a little lemon juice to bring back the acidity and make the mixture more moist.
- Taste and make any adjustments – I needed a tad more cheese and even added a bit of chili flakes. This is your pesto.
Obviously pasta is the main thing associated with pesto, but it also makes fantastic risottos, goes beautifully on crunchy bread or topping pizzas. It’ll keep in the fridge for a few days so you don’t have to use it all in one dish.