Plant Based Pesto

I’ve been hearing the expression plant based ringing in my ears a lot lately.


My doc saw my “bad” cholesterol ticking up (Bad, cholesterol! Bad!) and we decided it was time for a change. Get used to quinoa, she said. I had never tried it. Cut out the red meat you love, or at least cut it down to one or two times a month. Chicken or fish, okay, once in a while. But mainly, think plant based. Salads. Beans. Rice. Greens.

Plant based.


I love vegetables. (So does the yellowjacket I caught on those collard greens.) I’m so excited that my cukes are almost ready to be harvested.


My new potatoes are such babes they cry when you pull them out of the ground.


I couldn’t be a prouder mama.

But changing my diet, all but eliminating pork ribs, beef brisket, skirt steak, this is a big change. I know it’s for the best, but I have to find savory ways to make myself eat the right way happily. (Not to mention a somewhat recalcitrant husband.)

I have always loved pesto. The recipe originated in Liguria, the region of Italy that borders France. Its mineral-rich seaside soil and climate produce exceptionally sweet, sweet basil. The name comes from the mortar and pestle that are used to delicately squeeze the tender leaves rather than coarsely crush them. A similar sauce called battuto d’aglio (beaten garlic) appeared in the 1600s in the city archives of Genoa, the region’s capital city.

I’ve never been to Liguria, and I use a blender to make my sauce (yes, crushing it coarsely), but I think my pesto is mouth-watering. Anyway, we gobble it up. And it’s plant based.

It has a plant, the basil.


Olive oil, derived from a tree.

Nuts, also harvested from trees.

A teensy bit of cheese, parmigiano reggiano, nice and salty, which I think my doctor would forgive if she knew I was foregoing the Italian sausage I used to add to this dish.


And we all know how beneficial garlic is. Lazy me, I often use chopped garlic from a jar. It only slightly diminishes the flavor. But my favorite garlic is from my sister-in-law Noreen’s farm. She gives us a string that lasts all year.

Marcella Hazan, the doyenne of Italian cooking, has the classic recipe.


It takes 15 minutes from start to finish, during which time you can get the water boiling.

What do I do with this fresh-out-of-the-garden pesto? Throw it together with some pasta (imported, preferably).

Then use your imagination. Tonight I’m  spicing up our pasta al pesto with cut-up chicken breast, new potatoes and sweet-hot peppers from the garden. If only I had some really delicious plant-based sausage.

Plant Based Pesto

Place 2 well packed cups rinsed basil leaves, ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 3 T pine nuts (or walnuts or almonds), 1 T chopped garlic (more if you are a garlic fiend like me) and a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper in the blender. Blend ’til just smooth and then add a healthy ½ cup grated parmesan and blend again briefly.




Filed under Cooking, Culture, History, Home, Jean Zimmerman

4 responses to “Plant Based Pesto

  1. Lori

    I have indeed tried Quinoa. Here it comes in various shades including white, tan, red and black. I prefer the black variety. I cook it up and eat it with lentils. For a sauce I add Tamari gluten free soy sauce, Japanese toasted sesame oil, powdered ginger, crushed garlic, and celery salt, in descending order of amounts. Sometimes I omit the soy sauce and use Balsamic vinegar instead.
    I’m not a vegetarian, but I have learned to appreciate plant-based eating. Just remember that when you omit protein from animals that you still need protein. Just mix legumes with grains, 50/50 or so, and you’ll have your protein.
    Good luck! It’s fun learning new ways to eat!

  2. If quinoa has interested you for some time, you are a better woman than me.
    But I’ve found it’s okay, actually.
    That’ll be great, to have Sprout there. Maybe my folks will be inspired to pick up a mixing bowl!


    Quinoa has interested me for some time. Though I haven’t been cooking much (that’s an understatement) during the past two years… I’ve collected a few recipes … filing them away for the day when I may resume. I like to think that having a brand new SPROUTS store at Silverstone may inspire me; the ground hasn’t been broken yet … but I think a 2014 opening is planned.
    Quinoa will be at the top of my list… and PESTO… and I’ll have a bunch of recipes. Good luck with your new regimen!

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