Pretty Purple Pesto with Peanuts


What to do in the heights of summer, when basil is a boon? Make pesto, of course! Since I personally love growing purple basil and because it was in such a plentiful supply at the farm, I wanted to see what would happen if I used purple basil to make purple pesto. Basil has a wonderful fragrance stored in its oils, so harnessing that fatty goodness was just too irresistible. 

There are good fats and bad fats, or so they say, but the kind of fats I'm talking about is the kind that occurs naturally in plants, legumes, etc. Basil has an essential oil that is responsible for its unique perfume. Purple basil is especially lovely because it has that distinctive, delicate aroma with the benefits of anthocyanin, the purple-colored superfood stuff that makes things anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and even antidiabetic. The color of this pesto alone is enough for me to want to make it, but the health benefits are icing on the cake. 

A quick note before you begin: if you use a blender or a food processor to make this recipe, it will not look as pretty as you think it will look for about the first five minutes. It will be an unappealing brown. This is okay! Give it a moment to settle into the oils and let the aeration calm down. The result will be a beautiful green that is specked with deep purple. This is a good lesson in having patience. 

Seriously this got cuter as it sat

The cool thing about this particular pesto is that it uses peanuts, which are exponentially cheaper to get your hands on than pine nuts without sacrificing flavor. The result is a deeper, richer, almost spicier flavor profile than your average pesto, lending itself to the slight bitterness of the olive oil and the anise-like quality of the fresh basil. Any fatty nut or seed will do well in this application, but in all my years I think I prefer peanut pesto the most. Here's how to make it:

Pretty Purple Basil Pesto with Peanuts

  • 1 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese, either dairy or non-dairy( Violife or the Trader Joe's brand both work extremely well in this!)
  • 1/2 c peanuts, lightly toasted
  • 2 c purple basil leaves, packed tight (I used two and a half small bunches)
  • Good olive oil as needed; about a cup and change
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Combine everything in the pitcher of a blender and blend on low at first, just to combine. When everything blitzes together easily, turn it to a medium speed. Blend it for at least 2 minutes at medium and finish on High to make sure everything's pulverized and creamy. With most any pesto, you're going to start with a cup of olive oil and add more until you get a consistency that you're happy with. I personally like my pesto to be the consistency of thick yogurt, which takes about a cup and a half. You may find that you use only a cup of olive oil, however, if your basil is especially oily...which it will be, depending on how fresh it is!

Remember: Don't worry about the color as it will improve greatly with only a short five minutes of settling. I would even go so far as to say you should make this a day ahead of use so that the oils and flavors have a chance to meld and mesh with each other. This is one of those sauces that truly are better with a bit of age, so I invite you to make a big batch and keep it chilled for up to two weeks in the fridge!

This is great with pasta, on a chicken sandwich, in a potato salad, whatever you like. You can also use this as a marinade for any protein you have on hand. As I mentioned before, this will freeze perfectly when portioned and frozen in an ice cube tray and pulled out for later use. Simply pour the extra pesto into the tray, let freeze overnight, and then break out the cubes to store in freezer bags. You can pull out the cubes as needed without much trouble at all. I'm such a fan of stocking up my freezer with summer's bounty, and I invite you to do the same if you are able. A fresh pesto pasta in the winter months will bring a smile to your face when it's bleak outside.

I love this pesto recipe because you get a deep green with beautiful purple flecks in and out. It's visually stunning, easy, and a great accompaniment to any meal. I'm so glad I exercised a little patience with it instead of judging it outright for the initial coloring which came. Unlearning impatience has been a struggle for me since leaving the culinary industry behind and becoming a part-time writer and a full-time parent, and I'm sure I'm not unique in that aspect. It is my hope that this recipe brings you a bit of mindfulness, joy, and peace as it brought me. 

Happy cooking and happy eating!