Boatloads of Basil

Basil plant

Every time I see loads of basil springing from my garden or the markets, I think – basil, tomato, mozzarella. Sandwich or salad? The classic combination never gets old for me. But, given the enormous amounts of basil screaming to be picked from my garden, I needed to think up something new to try. I remembered making pistou a few years ago when my friend Lynn gave me loads of basil from her garden and I was in a French cooking sort of mood. Pistou it is. Pistou is like French pesto minus the nuts and sometimes the cheese. And, as an added bonus, pistou is freezable so you can make a big batch and freeze it to have on hand all summer. 

Pistou in a mortal

What do you do with all that pistou? It’s a great sauce for any grilled meat but is especially complimentary with grilled steaks. You can also add it to a simple vegetable soup and great Soupe de Pistou – perfect served at room temperature for a summer evening meal. Bruschetta topping, pasta sauce, grilled vegetable sauce, need I go on?  Really, for less than 30 minutes in the kitchen you can have a versatile sauce that you’ll use up before the summer’s over.

There are tons of recipes for pistou out on the web – I liked the Food & Wine recipe and one from French Feasts, an awesome French cookbook on loan from my friend Anne. Both emphasize that you must have a mortal and pestle to make pistou. I do think that this makes a difference; however, a food processor or mini-chopper would do the trick and takes less time. Adding a bit of tomato and cheese is also a differentiating factor in recipes – I opted for a bit of both but I think I would use less cheese next time.


The results were fabulous! Lots of compliments about how great it smelled in the kitchen while I was making it and the Soupe de Pistou was delicious. I can’t wait to use the leftovers on some grilled steak. Happy Eating!


(Adapted from Food & Wine and French Feasts)

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: None!

Makes 1 cup

3-4 garlic cloves, smashed

1 t kosher salt

4 1/2 cups basil leaves, torn into pieces (2 oz package)

Scant 1/4 cup grated plum tomatoes (grate the inside of the tomato and discard the skin)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 – 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, Mimolette or slightly aged gouda (I’d spring for the good stuff on this recipe)


  1. In a large mortar, pound the garlic with salt until a paste forms. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can do this with a fork and a small bowl (just REALLY smash the garlic first).
  2. Add the basil leaves by the handful and grind the leaves against the side of the mortar until almost smooth. Or, add basil leaves to the food processor and pulse.
  3. Stir in the tomatoes, and then gradually add the olive oil until it’s incorporated.
  4. Stir in the cheese and refrigerate until ready to use. Alternatively, freeze the pistou in ice cube trays to use on demand.




2 Responses to Boatloads of Basil

  1. Vicki says:

    Great recipe for someone who loves pesto, but needs to cook for someone with nut allergies.

  2. Ferdinand says:

    Great write, good web page style, continue the good work

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