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