Skip to content

Basil Feta Pesto

2011 May 20
It’s confession time. Nothing scandalous, just maybe a little weird. 

My favorite scent in the whole wide world is basil.

Not lilacs or roses, although they’re heart-breakingly lovely. No, it’s Basil.

Summer just isn’t summer unless there are large patches of basil in my garden, strategically placed so that I must brush against the aromatic leaves to reach everything else.

Sweet basil, Genovese and Red Rubin are my cultivars of choice, each tender, sweet, and glorious as cuttings in a glass of water on the kitchen window sill.

These seedlings are enjoying a hot Spring evening, waiting for their turn to go into the ground. Before the season ends, they’ll be waist-high and dense with leaves.

Summer basil means happily never-ending Caprese salads (and countless other basil-kissed dishes). Autumn basil means a winter store of pesto, spooned over pasta, spread on crostini, mixed into quinoa. Summer in a jar.

This year, I’m doing what I did not do last year: I’m making pesto all season long. In my insatiable craving for the humble tomato, mozzarella and basil salad, I neglected the one concoction that is basil’s birthright.

This version adds feta cheese, for a creamy-salty result that begs to be stirred into risotto.

Basil Feta Pesto

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (or substitute walnuts)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 cups packed basil leaves, cleaned, with stems removed.
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus additional for finishing
2 oz. feta cheese (Bulgarian is awfully lovely)
1/4 cup olive oil

In a food processor, pulse the pine nuts and garlic until finely chopped, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Add the basil and salt and blend until combined with the other ingredients.

Crumble the feta into the bowl and pulse a few times to combine.

Drizzle the olive oil into the feed tube until the mixture becomes a paste (you might not use all of the oil – that’s okay). Taste and adjust salt to taste. (Remember that feta is fairly salty, so err on the side of caution when adding salt. You can always add more, but once over-salted, there’s not much you can do to repair it.)

Serve immediately, store up to a week in the refrigerator, or freeze for up to six months. To prevent discoloration in the fridge, drizzle a very thin layer of olive oil over the top, without mixing, and then seal.

Print This Post


3 Responses
  1. July 15, 2011

    What an ingenious idea to add feta cheese to make pesto more creamy. Love your pictures, especially the purple basil. What is that type?

    • leafandgrain permalink*
      July 17, 2011

      It’s Red Rubin – my second favorite type of basil, second only to the noble Genovese.

  2. Jean Clark permalink
    March 3, 2014

    Hahaha .. how refreshing to read your comment on how basil is your favorite scent in the whole wide world!! :) I have the same passion for basil, and a small veggie garden I lovingly tend! As a therapeutic massage therapist familiar with so very many different aromatic oils, I still love basil the absolute most!! Of course it does have it’s uses in aromatherapy too. Thanx for the recipe.

    Kind regards.
    Jean Clark

Comments are closed.