Thursday, 16 June 2011

Universal Pesto Sauce

I learned the idea of 'universal' recipes from The Tightwad Gazette and I'm certain that it's saved me a fortune (well, more or less).  From the time I read the idea that I didn't have to run out and buy celery, but could substitute another green crunchy substance, such as bell pepper for example, I've never again been very challenged by a recipe.  My favourite example of a 'universal' recipe is 'rice dish', but she also devised a universal seafood casserole, a bread recipe, and several others.

It has never honestly occurred to me to make pesto sauce at home, mainly because tomato or white sauce seemed sufficient for flavouring pasta, but since I've incorporated nuts into my cooking schedule, pesto has looked more and more attractive.

I don't know if it was An Oregon Cottage or The Simple Dollar that first awakened me to the possibility that pesto doesn't have to mean pine nuts and basil, but if I had any further doubts, Wikipedia convinced me and I've never looked back since!

It turns out that 'pesto' is anything made by pounding (ie with a 'pestle' in a mortar)  or in these modern times more likely with a blender.  We enjoyed sunflower seeds and fresh parsley one night.  Personally, I think anything with garlic and olive oil is going to turn out well; I may or may not add the Parmesan cheese.  I used the blender stick that I now don't know how we ever lived without to zap the parsley, but the seeds successfully evaded the blades.  No matter, it was just crunchy sauce and very nice all the same.  I've not mastered a specific recipe, but generally look at another pesto recipe to get a rough idea of proportions.   I've tended to cut the amounts right back, but hope next time to freeze the extra as recommended.

Consider that the vegetable/herb portion might be one or a combination of arugula, coriander, bell pepper, basil, parsley, tomato, mint, spinach, mushrooms or several other substitutions (maybe even home grown!); also that the nuts could be almonds, cashews, walnuts, pine nuts, or (the most frugal unless you have your own tree) sunflower seeds.  

I always feel rather confined by ordinary recipes whereas universal recipes really make me feel free to create!  Jami, over at An Oregon Cottage, also talks about adding pesto to a creamy white sauce, to further dilute the herbage flavour, which is another thing I'm looking forward to trying!


frugalscholar said...

Basil pesto lasts forever in the freezer--I usually freeze w/out nuts and sometimes leave out nuts completely. Pine nuts--the traditional nut--are almost $20/lb!

Terri said...

It's been a couple of summers ago, but I actually made a pesto from grated lemon--delicious!