If I had to choose the number one smell that brings me back to Italy, it’d certainly be basil.
Both for nostalgia and versatility, pesto sauce is the favorite weekly staple in my fridge.
In Italy we use it exclusively as a pasta sauce, but abroad I've seen it as a salad dressing or even in sandwiches. And, why not? It adds a great deal of flavor and it's just so good why would you reserve it only for pasta? :)
The original recipe is a little different and more expensive because of the use of pine nuts, but this version won't let you down. The lemon juice lifts it up, makes it lighter and refreshing.
When cooking is not in my plans, often dinner consists of penne or fusilli with pesto and peas, mushrooms, broccoli or whatever vegetables I can boil in the same pot where the pasta is cooking.
This is barely a ‘recipe’ as you can choose to add and swap the ingredients depending on your taste.
Here, I've omitted garlic simply to make it more kid-friendly and more easily to digest, but it's a lovely touch to spice the sauce up.
3 oz (90 g) basil leaves, stalks discarded
Juice of two lemons
1.3 oz (40 g) sunflower seeds (or any nuts/seeds you have at home)
1/2 tsp sea salt
5 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
Optional: 2 tbs of grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese (or nutritional yeast for a vegan option)
Discard the basil stalks and wash the leaves. Blend them in a blender with the rest of the ingredients except for the cheese which you’ll add later to taste. If you don't have a blender, a food processor works too: the sauce will be less smooth but that's yummy anyway.
Transfer into glass jars and cover with abundant olive oil. Remember the surface has to be covered in oil all the time to avoid becoming rancid. Store in the fridge for up to 4 days, or freeze for later use.