Pandemic Pestos!

Summer 2020 in our garden has started off like a rocket, (with rocket… those lovely peppery leaves!) – but has now been overtaken by bushes of basil. This has inspired the makers of pesto amongst us. Comparing recipes with a few members proves that it can be a very versatile green sauce, substituting pretty much any greens you have in abundance. Here are a few variations on the classic:

Dean’s vegan pesto

Cheesy, flavourful and little different!


  • 40 g packed fresh basil (large stems removed)
  • 10 g pine nuts or walnuts (if nut-free, try sunflower seeds)
  • 3 g cloves garlic 
  • 12 ml lemon juice
  • 4.5 g nutritional yeast (available from The Source in Balmain or Woolworths)
  • 0.1 tsp sea salt (plus more to taste)
  • 11-16 ml extra virgin olive oil*
  • 17- 26 ml water (plus more as needed)


  1. To a food processor or small blender, add the basil, nuts, garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and sea salt and blend/mix on high until a loose paste forms.
  2. Add olive oil a little at a time (streaming in while the machine is on if possible) and scrape down sides as needed. Then add 1 Tbsp (15 ml) water at a time until the desired consistency is reached – a thick but pourable sauce. (If you are avoiding oil altogether, substitute the oil with vegetable broth or just use all water.)
  3. Taste and adjust flavour as needed, adding more nutritional yeast for cheesy flavour, salt for overall flavour, nuts for nuttiness, garlic for bite / zing, or lemon juice for acidity.
  4. Perfect for adding to sauces, dressings, breads, and more!
  5. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator up to 1 week. After that, pour into ice cube moulds, freeze, and store up to 1 month or more.

Pesto variations

Basic recipe: (makes 1 cup)

  • Place 80g of herb leaves or greens
  • 40g nuts or seeds
  • 1 clove of garlic/optional
  • 40g grated parmesan
  • salt to taste
  • 150ml olive oil

Blend in a food processor, adjust consistency with water or oil. Use straight away or store in a clean jar in the fridge for up to 10 days.

Using the proportions above
Try these combos:

  • Parsley, (plus rocket is good too) walnuts, lemon zest and 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Celery leaves, cashews, parmesan
  • Fennel fronds, pine nuts, parmesan and lemon juice