Poor Man’s Pesto

Sampler 1

In honor of this year’s garlic harvest (over 3,800 bulbs!), I’d like to share one of the Perkins’ household favorite garlic-infused recipes.  Pesto is one of our summertime last-minute go-to meals, a dish that can be prepared in 15 minutes or less, perfect for those days when we get so caught up working outside that we have neither the time nor the energy for much dinner prep.


I learned how to make pesto from Molly Katzen’s wonderful vegetarian Moosewood Cookbook Her recipe is simple, and I’ve since made it even simpler, perhaps to the dismay of any pesto aficionados out there.  In most cases, when someone refers to their pesto as belonging to the “poor man”, they replace expensive pine nuts with less expensive walnuts.  In this recipe, I get rid of the nuts altogether, combining the most simple of ingredients: basil, garlic, olive oil, parmesan, and salt and pepper. 

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My children love this pesto tossed with pasta (and then doused with more parmesan), and Dan and I are so used to the pesto sans nuts by now that we don’t even notice their absence.  The best part: while you’re saving money making this recipe, you’re also creating a dish rich in the health benefits offered by the basil and garlic

Begin by boiling water for your pasta—spaghetti, linguine, rotini, whatever you have on hand.  (I used Aldi’s gluten-free fusilli.)

Place 3-4 cups of fresh basil leaves and 3-4 peeled Perkins’ Good Earth Farm garlic cloves in a food processor and run about 10 seconds.  Scrape the sides, then pulse until the basil and garlic are finely minced.

Next, while the food processor is running, drizzle in about 1/3 cup of olive oil until the ingredients are well-blended into a smooth paste.  Move the mixture into a bowl and add about 1/3 cup of grated or shredded parmesan cheese.  Salt and pepper to taste, toss with the hot pasta, and that’s it—you’re finished!


A note: Pesto is really easy to freeze and a delicious summer-reminiscent treat in the middle of winter.  I process only the basil and olive oil, then freeze the mixture in an ice cube tray for several hours before transferring the pesto cubes to a quart size freezer bag.  When I’m in the pesto mood come January, I thaw the cubes, then add the garlic, parmesan, and salt and pepper.

Photography and Food Styling:  Julie Oudman Perkins


Simple Pesto
Serves 4
A simple pesto for a quick dinner.
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Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
  1. 3-4 cups packed basil leaves
  2. 3-4 large cloves garlic, peeled
  3. 1/3 cup olive oil
  4. 1/3 cup Parmesan, grated or shredded
  5. salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Put basil and garlic in food processor. Run for about 10 seconds. Scrape sides and pulse until minced well.
  2. While the food processor is running, drizzle in olive oil until you have a smooth paste.
  3. Move the mixture to a bowl. Add Parmesan, salt, and pepper.
  1. Use pesto on pasta, crackers, grilled cheese with mozzarella, atop tomato slices--or any other savory idea that comes to mind.
  2. Enjoy!
Adapted from Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
Adapted from Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
Perkins' Good Earth Farm https://perkinsgoodearthfarm.com/


  1. Beth Reasoner on August 19, 2015 at 5:00 am

    YUM! Can’t wait to give this one a try, Julie! I keep lots of fresh herbs on hand here in my little porch garden. Thanks!!

    • Julie Oudman Perkins on August 19, 2015 at 6:03 am

      Great, Beth! Let me know how it turns out!

  2. Rebekah Vande Kamp on August 19, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    Those boys look like they are truly enjoying that meal! I believe you are the one who introduced me to pesto. It was delicious then and that looks amazing too!

    • Julie Oudman Perkins on August 20, 2015 at 7:39 pm

      Thanks, Rebekah! They were pretty excited about their dinner, and I didn’t even have to bring Hulk into it to convince them to eat green food. 🙂

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