DIY pesto - to make or to buy?

  • By
    Roxanne Fisher - Health editor - bbcgoodfood.com

Is it always worth making your favourites from scratch? Our DIY series puts shop-bought and homemade to the test - this time, pesto...

Jar of homemade pesto

The ultimate standby sauce, pesto can instantly transform a tired pasta pot into a taste sensation and can give chicken dishes and comforting soups a new lease of life. Just a few small spoonfuls can unleash a gargantuan taste, meaning a small amount can go a long, long way. Always with a sealed jar in the cupboard, I've committed to giving homemade a try. Slightly skeptical it can't possibly be improved upon; I put both to the test...

Pesto in pestle and mortarThe cost

Cost of shop-bought classic green pesto:
Supermarket own brand - £1.50 (190g jar)

Cost of ingredients for homemade green pesto:
Ingredients - £4.50 (approx 260g)

The pesto recipe I used:
Classic pesto

The recipe I followed yielded more pesto than I got in the shop-bought jar, but the cost of pricey ingredients such as pine nuts and Parmesan meant it wasn't better value to make my own.

Tip:
If you have a bit of garlic and olive oil in your storecupboard and your own basil plants this would bring the cost of the ingredients down to about £2.25. Don't forget to make the most of any leftovers. Scatter a few pine nuts over pasta dishes, grate Parmesan over creamy chicken and use basil to garnish your finished plates.

The making:

With just one step between my small huddle of ingredients and my very own pesto sauce, I was still pleasantly surprised as to how easy this was to make. It even reconnected me with my previously underused food processor, though the good old-fashioned pestle and mortar method would have done the trick with a little effort.

Tip:
Some of the comments at the bottom of the recipe really intrigued me - suggestions of using cashews or walnuts instead of pine nuts and adding a bit of spice with some chopped chilli definitely sound like they're worth a try!

Spoonful of pestoThe taste:

Before even tasting it, the delightful smell of the homemade pesto was incomparable to shop-bought. I hadn't divulged I was making my own, but everyone recognised a difference in taste, texture and aroma. When I first tried it, the most notable flavour was the garlic, making me wonder if a little more basil and just one clove would provide a more balanced taste. There were no complaints though - homemade was a unanimous hit!

The verdict:

I was so surprised by how easy, quick and delicious the homemade pesto was. All the possibilities for different combinations and substitutions really appeals to me and I will definitely make my own again. Saying that, I can't imagine I'll be a devout pesto maker, the jar in the cupboard still has its place, for convenience and cost if nothing else.

Fancy having a go at making your own? Try the pesto recipe I used, or try a different version with almonds.

What are your top tips for making pesto? Do you prefer making your own or buying it in?

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grumzy's picture

Always make my own pesto when I can. But I usually avoid pine nuts. They're so expensive, when Pistachios are so much nicer.

Even cashews or almonds make a fine replacement.

Or cheddar cheese if your guests are vegetarian.

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