I’m in love with pistou

And believe me, Gentle Reader, once you taste it, you’ll be in love with it, too.

I think I’ve mentioned in this space that I went a bit overboard in planting basil this year. I devoted several flats to basil seedings in the wintertime, so hungry was I for fresh basil. They have it at the Wal-Mart near us, I think, sporadically, during the winter months, but it’s a few leaves in a plastic package about the size of a cell phone, for $3.00 or more. And you know me. I’m way too cheap sensible to buy it. So around here, if you want to have armloads of basil, for cooking or for pesto-making, or for (happy sigh) pistou making, you really need to visit your local farmer’s market (if you’re lucky enough to have a grower who grows lots and lots of basil 🙂 ) or grow it yourself.

In my typical clearlyoverthetop enthusiastic gardening manner, I planted four kinds of basil this year: a dark purple (Ararat), a standard sweet basil (Emily), licorice basil (because I love licorice . . . what??!) and a fourth type that I don’t remember (I’m always honest with you, Gentle Reader) what it is.

Here’s a guilty confession: though I had also planted a nice bed of basil last summer, I never did get around to making pesto or pistou for the freezer, and that still haunts me. I sold plenty of bunches at the farmer’s market, I used lots in my summer meals, but I didn’t freeze a single leaf or a single cube of pesto. Bad. Bad, bad, bad. I’ll not make that mistake this year. I missed basil all–winter–long.

How could I not have made time to preserve some of that goodness? Eating fresh basil is like tasting summertime itself. Soft warm breezes, evenings with fireflies, golden sunsets, croaking frogs and buzzing cicadas, all of these are in a bite of fresh basil. Figuratively speaking. It really is a treat reserved (at least to us smalltowners) for the summer gardener. It makes the perpetually dirty knees and scratched up legs and chigger-bitten, er . . . areas . . . worth it all. More or less.

Please let’s not discuss (scratch) chiggers right now. It’s kind of a (rubbing back against the chair) sore subject. Let’s just stay on the topic (wiggle, itch) of fresh basil, ‘k?

And basil is not hard to grow, although I’ve found that I really need to plant it in flats in the house around the time I plant tomato seeds. In the past, when I’ve just planted a bed of basil outside in May, the germination is hit or miss, and I usually end up with just a few straggly plants at summer’s end. If you plant basil seeds in flats in the house, you’ll likely get a plant from nearly every seed, and you’ll have plenty–plenty!--of basil to cook with, to share with your lucky friends and family, and to make into sauces for the freezer.


And once the basil is ready, here’s my advice: start with pistou. I love pesto, too, but pistou is even easier to make, and since it doesn’t contain nuts (or pine nuts or whatever) it’s got even fewer ingredients to gather. Really, the most time-consuming thing about making pistou is plucking the leaves off the stems, and that can be done with one eye on your favorite guilty television pleasure of the moment. Amalia and I just finished watching The Paradise, which is a BBC series that we really enjoyed, but which only lasted two seasons, sadly. You’ll probably want to check it out if you adore those BBC dramas that include wonderful sets and costumes and wonderfully impossible plot lines and tragically star-crossed lovers. Sigh.

Back to pistou–it’s so easy to make that you can toss it together as you’re boiling the pasta for dinner, and you’ll have something lovely for dinner in just a few minutes. Something very fresh. And summery.

These lettuce-leaf basil seedlings are waiting patiently for the hoophouse to be finished.

Tiny basil seedlings, aren’t they so cuuuute?

Do you know, I felt my very spirit go into a tailspin a few days ago when I heard “Back to school sales at . . “ on the radio. Back to school sales? It’s still summer, right? So who is thinking about school in the very middle of summer? Not me, that’s who. Not–time–for–school–yet. No!!

NO. It’s high summer, the garden is exploding with goodness and for pete’s sake, it’s time to make pistou. snif.


No more of this nonsense about summer ending. It makes me tear up, it really does. Here’s the recipe. (pout.)

I’m in love with pistou
Author: Amy from vomitingchicken.com
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: only a few hungry maws
Pistou–a garlic and basil sauce–is a close cousin of pesto, and is a wondrous combination of flavors which will make your tastebuds sing. Literally. You’ll hear them burst into song. You’ll love it.
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves, shredded
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • freshly-ground pepper
  1. Smash garlic, and then finely chop in processor or blender.
  2. Add basil and salt. Process until basil is finely chopped, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. With machine running, gradually blend in oil.
  3. Add cheese; process to blend well.
  4. Season with pepper. Transfer to bowl. (You can make it up to 2 days ahead. Place plastic wrap directly onto surface of Pistou; refrigerate.)
  5. Now the fun begins: you can 1. eat it off the spoon, or 2. smear it on good bread, or 3. stir it into hot pasta, or 4. slather it on broiled tomatoes, or 5. add it to soup, or 6. use your imagination!

There it is, Gentle Reader, and now I hope that you have some basil in hand and can make some pistou today. You’ll love it!

23 thoughts on “I’m in love with pistou

  1. Marcy

    This looks delish! However, I do take issue with your number of servings. Lots? Around here that amount would be devoured in moments! And I have less than half of my kids living at home any more 🙁 [I so identified with your post on the shrinking help force, but that should be another comment] I usually freeze lots of pesto-have you ever tried it on pizza in place of red sauce?
    Well, I should stop catching up on reading blogs and get myself out to my garden. There’s weeds to pull and carrots to plant and basil to pick!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Okay, okay, Marcy, per your comment, I changed the number of servings. I never really know how many servings my recipes include (it’s a mystery that I don’t like to think hard enough about, to solve) so I cop out and just say “lots.” I changed it to something a bit more precise, although I was tempted to put “not enough for Marcy’s crew.” 😉

  2. Ryan McKenzie

    This is the first time I’ve ever actually heard about Pistou. For some reason I was expecting it to be Pesto with pistachios or Cashews in place of the pine nuts. I will definitely be giving this a shot next time I’m planning on making pesto. I’ll save a few bucks on the pine nuts too!

  3. Alana(@RamblinGarden)

    Just read this to my husband, who is now under orders to make it. Hey, why don’t I write a post about basil and include a link to your recipe? Sounds good for a post early next week. Running out right now to take pictures. (P.S. don’t feel bad about forgetting names of what you planted. That’s the norm around here.)

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Alana, I love your idea. I love, love, love basil. And you’re my favorite of all time! When you write that post, I’ll include a link at the end of this post. For more information about basil from my favorite blogger . . .

  4. Chef William Chaney

    Interesting…I have a recipe that includes basil, scheduled for tomorrow morning,.. We have a bumper crop this year but will end up giving away whatever we can’t use before we depart for Mexico. I like the way you used it in the photo. I think I will follow that example but perhaps I will BBQ a beer can chicken and place a few slices on top of the sandwich once it is done. It could be just the perfect open faced sandwich if I can get the French Baguettes while they are still warm from the ovens. I think I can make it all come together at the same time.

  5. Mari

    I never understood the difference between pistou/pesto. Now you have cleared that up for me, I realize that when my SIL was here a couple years ago and we made pesto (I thought), we were really making pistou. Now I can use my same recipes and put a new name on them and it will be just like a whole new dish I am serving, right? Also, now I need to go back and make pesto and do a taste test. Do they really taste different? Do pine nuts make that much taste difference? I will find out! I will print this out and put it with my treasured recipes. Thanks, Amy. You have made this gardener’s mouth sing with anticipation.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Mari, that is my understanding. My pesto recipe includes lemon juice, so there is a zing in pesto that is not in pistou. I think they taste quite a bit different from each other. I’m going to share a soup recipe next week that includes pistou in it.

      1. Mari

        I would love recipes for using pistou, and also the recipe for making your pesto. I can then compare the two side by side and love them both. I just had some of whatever you would call what I made last year. I added it to my pasta, along with fresh garlic, tomatoes and basil and a good olive oil. A toss with parmesan and we had a great no-meat meal for Sunday dinner. Yum. Whatever it is called, it is good stuff.

          1. Mari

            Wow! Thanks, Amy! I printed this pesto recipe off, too, and now I need to make both of them and compare. What was really nice is that this posting led me to another one and then another one till I finally ended up with Tuscan Poached Eggs with Heirloom Tomatoes. At that point, after printing off everything I came across, I stopped and gulped. I have stacks and stacks of heirloom tomatoes and my chickie baby ladies provide the other half of the meal. Whoopee! I am well on my way to another great meatless dinner, which is what I am searching for now. So it was a win, win, win situation and I chuckled with glee as a hastened off to my kitchen with a fist full of new and exciting recipes. Love them all, and thanks a million.

          2. dramamamafive Post author

            That Tuscan poached eggs recipe is one of my favorites, hands-down! I love it that we produce everything that goes into it, on our little place. Be sure to have a good loaf of crusty bread to sop up the juices, though. Yum. Now I’m going to have to make some asap. Thanks, Mari! 🙂

  6. Loryjean Pratt

    I love basil! and Coconut Oil! Can’t live without either, and I perfectly understand about preserving basil for the winter. I ususally dry mine, but I think I am going to make pistou and put some in the freezer!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Loryjean: I don’t think I put this in the post, but this is how I like to freeze it: put it in a freezer bag, squish out all the air, and squeeze flat, then freeze. It doesn’t take up much space in the freezer, and you can just break off a chunk whenever you need some. So easy!

  7. Tina

    Thanks for the reminder to enter the coconut oil giveaway!
    My girls and I are big fans of homemade chocolate truffles made with coconut oil, cocoa powder, raw honey and cinnamon with a dash of cayenne. So good!
    We also loved The Paradise! Such pretty sets and costumes. 🙂

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