Pesto, Hold the Cheese

I love pesto.

Each time I make pesto, it's a new adventure. In days past (read: the days when cheese and dairy were a part of my regular life), I loaded my version up with tons of best-quality Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese.

My friend, Miss A, gets a regular delivery from a local farm with lots of lovely veggies and fruit. This past week, she announced that there were 6 bunches of fresh basil on offer, for just $1 a bunch. I jumped on that deal right away since pesto and summer go hand in hand in my book.

I stored the basil in the fridge for a day in a large bowl filled with water. The scent was evocative of Gran Fran's kitchen. She used a regular blender to make pesto. I remember her stationed at our counter, wearing a kerchief on her head, an apron around her neck. She would bang and shake the blender as it did it's thing, to ensure that all the ingredients would mix properly. It also created a great amount of noise, which Gran Fran is capable of with or without electrical appliances.

My dad bought her a food processor as a gift once, but it was promptly returned. Why? Her claim was that a food processor would cut one's hand off, and lead to all manner of calamity for the cook. Have I mentioned that a world-class cook such as Gran Fran, refused (and continues to this day) to use real knives while cooking. She will go as far as a dull paring knife, but otherwise, depends on butter knives and sometimes an old serrated steak knife. Her fear of sharp implements has not, however, kept her from cooking up a storm.

My modern-day pesto consists of walnuts, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon and, of course, basil. I don't miss the cheese, and hope you won't either. Oh, and I used a food processor for the very first time for this recipe. It took me all of ten minutes to whip up three huge batches of pesto. And, I'd like to report back, I survived my food processor time with not a scratch upon me.

Pesto: Vegan-Style


  • 2 to 3 bunches of basil, leaves separated from stems, stems discarded
  • 4 cloves garlic, skin removed
  • 1/2 cups walnuts (pine nuts or almonds work well here, too)
  • Juice of 1/2 Lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt (sea salt is real nice!)
  • 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup Olive Oil
  • Black Pepper to taste


  • Set up your food processor with the largest bowl you have and the metal chopping blade (looks like a fan blade).
  • Put basil, garlic, walnuts, lemon juice and salt in the bowl. You may need to do batches, depending on how large the bowl is
  • Process the mixture for 30 seconds, until the basil starts to get chopped into really small bits.
  • Through the feeder tube, start adding the olive oil, slowly, until the mixture reaches the consistency you prefer. To be honest, you may need a bit more than I recommend, based on how thick or thin you want the mixture to be.
  • Once you are satisfied with the consistency, remove pesto from the work bowl into a container that has an airtight lid.
  • Add pepper.
  • Before sealing the container, add a layer of olive oil to help preserve the green color of the pesto.

This recipe freezes well, for future pesto enjoyment.