Homemade Basil Cashew Pesto Super-de-Duper

I wonder about the origins of pesto. Don’t you, in the quiet corners of the night, when perhaps a large cricket hidden underneath your bed starts chirping and wakes you, and then continues to make his infernal racket to the point where you not only cannot go back to sleep but can’t even have a peaceful thought. . . don’t you wonder about the origins of pesto?

I do.

Who first thought about taking these aromatic basil leaves, for example, and crushing them into a paste with garlic and parmesan cheese and lemon juice and then emulsifying the mixture with olive oil? Was it a desperate housewife in ancient Rome, perhaps, who, while cleaning up her garden, found a late basil plant tangled up in the weeds? Maybe she plucked a handful of the leaves and brought them to her nose, breathing in that wonderful scent, thinking about all the meals she prepared with them that summer. Dormice with roasted vegetables and herbs. Salted fish with basil and cheese. Yum.

But it’s the end of the month, and her stores are low. Opening the kitchen cabinet, she finds only a few edibles–a swig of olive oil, a remnant of a parmesan cheese, a lemon. Maybe a few nuts. She wonders what on earth she could do with such paltry stores, to feed her family: her children due home from Roman school any minute, and her good husband from his work on the Aquaducts. She looks down at the handful of basil leaves in her hand. She heaves the 5 o’clock sigh of housewives ’round the world. Then she sees the mortar and pestle sitting close by. She gets an idea. She brightens.

I can see it.

She mashes the few things together, and then whips olive oil into the mixture until she likes the way it looks, adding some salt and pepper, tasting and smiling. It’s tasty. Then perhaps she adds the paste to some ordinary roasted vegetables, making an extraordinarily delicious meal out of a few simple ingredients. Voila! She is indeed a clever woman, and the world will never be the same.

Pesto is born.

This idea, I love. I love simple food with exquisite tastes, and this recipe for basil cashew pesto surely does fill that bill. It’s a very versatile sauce, and can be the very best friend of the oft-harried and always-well-meaning and usually-tired and severely-overbooked housefrau. Or even you, say. Or me. Just picture it. You have an over abundance of basil in your garden right now. It’s so good on lots of things, and you’re going to dry some for later, and you’ll make some delicious tomato and egg dishes with it, and you’ll position it decorously on every pizza you bake until frost, but what will you do with the rest? You hate to let it go to waste. You could just toss it to the chickens, but heck–they’ll eat anything green, why should you waste the beautiful basil on them? Much as you love them. And you do.

I planted four kinds of basil this year. That is how hungry I was for pesto early this spring.  :) Four. Kinds.

I planted four kinds of basil this year. That is how hungry I was for pesto early this spring. 🙂 Four. Kinds.

Here’s what you’ll do with it, Gentle Reader. You’ll make pesto. Lots of delicious pesto, and you’ll stick it into the freezer for later meals. You can smear it on toast and put juicy heirloom tomatoes on it for a quick lunch. You can mix it with hot pasta for a delicious quick meal. You can add it to your macaroni and cheese. You can schmear it on your grilled cheese sammages. Every time you eat it, you’ll think of your lovely summer garden, and all that fresh basil you were so smart to plant. You can stir it into hot roasted vegetables, and your family will say “Yum. Pesto. Mom, you are the most amazing thing.”

They will gaze at you in delight for preparing something so delicious just for them. And maybe (more importantly) they’ll insist on washing the dishes, while you put up your feet and read your latest issue of The Roman Times People Magazine.

See? Now you’ve got to make it.

Here’s the recipe. Make plenty, and then freeze it for later. I’m freezing mine this year in half-pints and also in ice cube trays, because I saw that on a blog I’m smart that way. 🙂

Homemade Basil Cashew Pesto Super-de-Duper
Recipe Type: sauces
Author: Amy from vomitingchicken.com
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: lots
Having a nice supply of pesto in the freezer is a busy cook’s secret weapon and best friend, to boot. And it’s as easy to make as it is scrumptious to eat! Stir it into hot pasta, mix it with hot roasted veggies, or spread it on toast–it’s so tasty so many ways!
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup cashews, roasted for 5 minutes (risky business: try not to burn them)
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp coarse black pepper
  • 1 cup olive oil
  1. Put all ingredients into your blender container. Pulse to mash. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, adding a bit more if necessary, while blending. Eat right away, or freeze for later in jars or ice cube trays. Once trays are frozen, pop cubes out and put into freezer bags. Smart you. Lucky family of smart you!

Well done, you! Once you’ve made your pesto, you can get creative about how you’ll use it. Enjoy!

For more fresh ways to use your garden produce and clever fresh market buys, be sure to “like” my Facebook page and sign up on my e-mail list. Thank you!


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18 thoughts on “Homemade Basil Cashew Pesto Super-de-Duper

  1. Anita-Clare Field

    We love pesto here and have written about it extensively about it on our blog. We love experimenting with new flavours and combinations of nuts and herbs and indeed oil. We have been very successful at selling it too.
    Yours looks lovely indeed, although I have to say everything here at home is very much geared up to French or moroccan right now as I practise the menu for our restaurant.
    Will try this version next week with some pasta later in the week 🙂

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Anita-Clare, you can make pesto in so many different tastes–and it packs such a flavor (flavour) punch in any dish you use it in. I love it!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      It’s very easy to make, and it proves that you’re a very clever person indeed, if you make it yourself! Ta-da!

  2. Kimberley Wiggins

    Hi Amy,
    This is a very interesting thing as I have eaten pesto but not tried to make it. Now that may be beyond my culinary abilities but I am going to save the recipe and see if I can whip this up one day. The only thing for me is that I don’t have fresh basil but at least you got me to thinking about planting some in a pot in my kitchen because I do love basil. Thanks for the seed thought.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Kimberley, it is so easy to make: all you really need is a food processor or a blender, for equipment. Try it! It’s not hard at all to make!

  3. RiRs

    My husband makes the most amazing pesto pasta, but this we’ve got to try making soon! I can already imagine my gang (of two kids, 12 and 2) giving me “the best mom” trophy for it. I should thank you as early as now!

  4. Chef William Chaney

    Of course, the thought that continued going through my mind as I read this was, it will all work so well when Amy The Roman is drowning in tons of tomatoes, All kinds of tomatoes and little Mac is served pesto on a different colored tomato daily. But it sure is nice to have the pesto when the tomatoes ripen, thanks for sharing the recipe

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      You should see the tomatoes setting on, Chef . . . I’ve got bluish ones for the first time ever! When you and Maria come to visit, I will make you pesto with any color of tomato you choose! It won’t be long now. I’ve got cherry tomatoes beginning to turn . . .:)

  5. Gwendolen

    Made my first batch of pesto that was large enough to freeze last summer and was blessed to have it come January when I was jonesing for basil. Basil is the first herb I plant in pots for my deck in March, knowing I will have to bring it in several time before we are frost free. I try to keep an old aqua mason jar filled with it all winter too, but pesto in the off season is summer in your mouth!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I like that, Gwendolyn: “pesto in the off season is summer in your mouth!” I only started growing basil a few years ago, but wouldn’t be without it now. I love it. Sounds like you do, too. 🙂

  6. Jillian

    I love pesto! I recently made pesto with garlic scapes and it was amazing!! I last used it mixed in pasta with a creamy avocado sauce. Divine!

  7. Helaine

    Greetings! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy
    reading your blog posts. Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the same
    topics? Thanks for your time!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I really like The Prairie Homestead, and also I enjoy reading Ben Hewitt’s blog. For recipes, I love smitten kitchen and Joy the Baker, and the nourished kitchen is also a favorite of mine. I guess I don’t read any other chicken-related blogs, honestly, but if you find a good one, let me know! I also really like reading the blog that Baker Creek Seeds writes, which is garden-related and very pro-heirloom seeds, which you can find on their website.

  8. Pingback: I'm in love with pistou - vomitingchicken.com

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