I love pasta, especially those with a lot of sauce. I'm a big fan of Pesto, given that basil is one of my favorite ingredients! Last night I was wanting to use up a lot of basil which had been sitting in the fridge for some time. I didn't have any pine nuts at home and needed to make dinner quickly. I decided to improvise by using almonds instead. It worked well and turned out pretty delicious too. Of course the purpose of substitution is always to use what we have in the pantry, but be careful to use blanched or regular almonds with the skin removed and try to avoid salted almonds so that you can salt your sauce or pasta to taste. (If you have plain almonds at home with skin, you can soak them in hot water for 10 min and then easily remove the skin)
1/2 bunch fresh basil, stems trimmed
~ 5 to 10 sprigs cilantro (optional)
~ 12 to 15 almonds
~ 1 tbsp crushed garlic or paste
salt to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup grated cheese
To make the pesto, just rinse the basil and place in a blender or food processor. Add the almonds, garlic, salt and fresh cilantro or parsley (if you want). I used a little cilantro just to add some flavor but this is up to your taste if you want to add anything in with your basil. Add in a few drops of water and puree. When the almonds seem to be almost dissolved, add in olive oil and continue to puree for a minute. Your mixture should look smooth and creamy, not too dry or lumpy. You can add water or olive oil as necessary to reach a good consistency.
Traditionally, pesto has Parmesan cheese added to it. I made this pesto and added it to a cream sauce which had Asiago cheese, so I didn't add any cheese when making the pesto itself. If you are going to have pesto on its own then please add Parmesan, Romano or any other cheese you want before the olive oil step in this mix.