Recipe: Basil-Sunflower Seed Pesto
As a kid, my family spent some time living in Northern Italy. Since everything is so close together in Europe, we were able to travel a lot on weekends and get to see a great deal of the area around us. That area included Genoa, home of the famous Genovese pesto. Even being an American, and being a kid, pesto made a big impression on my palate!
As I grew up and starting cooking, I learned that all pestos did not have to be Genovese to be good, so I started playing around with variations. I remember my mother re-creating it using the traditional mortar and pestle… sorry, these days, I use a food processor.
I have experimented a lot, using pine nuts but also walnuts, pistachios and sunflower seeds. Partly because of the cost, and partly due to the number of people with nut allergies, the version I make for sale at the Farmers Markets is with sunflower seeds. In deference to my vegan customers, I most often prepare this without the cheese, although I have to admit that the richness and saltiness of the cheese is missed.
3 cups fresh basil (I use the leaves and stem from the top 6″ of the plant, then just the leaves from the rest of the stalk)
3/4 cup unsalted, roasted sunflower seeds
3-4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (optional)
1T fresh lemon juice
1 cup olive oil
1 tsp Sea Salt (I use “Simply Sicily” Sicilian sea salt from Trapani)
In your food processor, combine everything except the basil. Blend until almost smooth.
Add the basil, and blend until most of the basil is incorporated.
If it needs it, add a little more olive oil and combine again.
Taste for salt and lemon, and adjust as necessary.
The pesto will begin to oxidize and turn dark as soon as it hits the air, so have your containers ready.
You can keep it for a few weeks in the fridge, or make pesto “ice cubes” and keep it for months in the freezer.