Basil is one of my favourite herbs so it comes as no surprise that I’ve always been quite partial to a spot of fresh pesto with some pasta or bread. However, it was several years into my vegetarianism that I realised that pesto contained Parmesan and if course, Parmesan contains calf rennet. Not so vegetarian. Most DECENT restaurants are quite astute to this and will provide pesto-based dishes with a vegetarian cheese, whilst others probably wouldn’t even realise that Parmesan is not a veggie’s best friend. I’ve tried making my own pesto many a time by omitting the cheese but what I normally end up with can only be described as a soggy, oily mess. However, tonight I think I finally cracked it..
In my post, Vegetarians and Hard Cheese, I talked about a batch of vegetarian style Parmesan that I bought from Waitrose so used this to form part of the recipe. After initially blitzing the basil, oil, garlic and pine nuts, the mixture tasted somewhat peculiar. It was only when I mixed in the grated cheese that I realised what an important ingredient the cheese is when making pesto. I kept adding more and more cheese until I had it just the way I wanted it!
INGREDIENTS (serves 2)
•25g basil leaves
•1/2 tbs pine nuts
•3tbs olive oil
•1/2 clove crushed garlic
•drop of lemon juice
•A pinch of black pepper
•40g finely grated vegetarian hard cheese
1) Mix the basil, garlic, olive oil and pine nuts in a blender to form a rich, thick paste.
2) Stir in the cheese, lemon juice and black pepper. Done.
I served this with some whole wheat conchiglie pasta from The Shoreditch Grocery and a few rocket leaves, giving it a slightly healthier feel!