Friday, October 21, 2011

Poor Man's Pesto (Also, it's nut free)

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

Anybody priced out pine nuts lately? They've never been what we here like to call cheap, but this year they are what we here like to call really outrageous. Earlier in the summer when I made pesto, I used the remainder of a big bag I bought last summer and and stored in the freezer. This time around, I kept looking at different stores thinking that the last store with its crazy expensive pine nuts must have been a fluke. (In some circles, this is called denial.) After about 5 stores of this, I put some expensive ones in my basket. Then on my way to the checkout, I walked past some sunflower seeds. They had a bright yellow and red sale sign. That always catches my eye.

The sunflower seeds cost 1/4 of what the cheapest pine nuts cost. And I thought, "What the heck; they're kind of sort of in the same kind of sort of family, right. And they've kind of sort of got the same kind of sort of look and texture, right?" That was good enough for me.

My Poor Man's Pesto turned out pretty good too. Let me level with you; it wasn't quite as good as Classic Pesto (aka that with pine nuts). I'm a huge pine nut aficionado. Plus, the sunflower seeds I bought were pre-roasted; I think raw would have been better and more like a pine nut in that oily, toothsome texture they have. However, this pesto is awesome, and while I don't know how it will measure up with classic pesto in pasta, I think it might be even better on sandwiches and meat than classic pesto. It's nuttier, and I like that in a seed.

P.S. This is also nut free, so it's great for anyone with allergies who wants to enjoy some pesto.

Poor Man's Pesto
makes 1-2 C
Prep time: 10 minutes; maybe a little more if you need to clean your basil well, as I did
Cost: $.75
(my basil was free; sunflower seeds: .50, olive oil: .20, garlic: .05)

4 C basil leaves, well washed
1/2 C olive oil
1/2 C sunflower seeds (if wanting for sandwiches, this is perfect; if you want it in pasta sauces, I'd reduce it to 1/4 C or 1/3 C)
6-8 large cloves garlic
salt if your sunflower seeds are raw; otherwise omit

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

Not having pesto tonight? Put the remainder in ice cube trays, freeze, and then store in a freezer bag.



  1. Fascinating. We eat a large amount of sunflower stuff here but never considered pesto (we always just make it without the pine nuts). Will have to give this a try.

  2. Fascinating on my part too. I thought of it as cheap, but never as a good nut alternative, which of course it is. Hurray!



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