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Gluten-Free Fridays: Jonesing for Pesto

May 22, 2009

For those just joining my blog for ICLW, there are a few key things you need to know about me. I’m of Italian heritage, which means I have olive colored skin (when I tan), which I’m pretty sure has to do with the olive oil running through my veins. I cook almost exclusively with olive oil. My parents used to buy it in gallon tins when I was a kid. I also subsist on garlic, basil, and tomatoes.

However, the one thing that my Italian genes do not like is gluten. I am gluten-intolerant, which is the protein in wheat, barley, rye, and spelt that makes dough sticky. Dairy doesn’t agree with me either. One would think that all of Italian culture would crumble if wheat and dairy could not be put into Italian recipes, but luckily, exceptions can be made! Wheat is also considered bad for fertility. Most grains, including the gluten containing ones, are acid forming. An alkaline diet is considered healthier for the body and fertility. All my recipes exclude gluten grains and dairy, but not meat. It would be pretty grim if I couldn’t eat meat either.

Part of eating a healthier diet for me, and in theory to improve my egg quality, is to grow my own food. I’ve been working like crazy in my spare time preparing my garden. I just transplanted ten basil plants. I’m wondering what I’m getting into planting them all at once, but I decided not to mess around this year. My best basil plants last year were the ones I put in first. My frozen pesto from last year’s ten basil plants lasted until March this year! But what am I do do between the months of April and June while I’m waiting for the basil to grow?

The solution is arugula.

rocket arugula

Arugula is an early spring green in the mustard family. It has a spicy taste, kinda like basil. You can substitute arugula for basil in pesto recipes. You can buy 20 times the amount of arugula for the same amount of money you would spend on basil in the grocery store. Arugula is always the first green sold at the farmer’s market.

Arugula is instant gratification, well, as instant as it gets when it comes to growing your own. It comes and goes quickly, so you have to successively seed it, meaning seeding every two or three weeks. My first seeding of arugula from March 22nd is almost spent already. I’ve gotten three cuttings off it and it bolted after the second cutting. I planted rocket arugula this year, which has nice big leaves. I also planted another variety called “Sputnik” from Seeds_of_Change, which is slightly less spicy. It’s still small, so I’ll see how I like it once I can get a harvest off it.

To make arugula pesto, just substitute the arugula for the basil! It’s that simple. I have reprinted the recipe below from this original post. Remember that you need a food processor for this recipe. You can do it in a blender, but it will be very slimey tasting if you do. We learned this the hard way when Magic recently tried to make pesto. Serve the pesto over your favorite gluten-free pasta. I personally think the Tinkyada_brand is THE best gluten-free pasta, hands down. We had this last night for dinner and ate it before I had a chance to take a picture! Enjoy

Ingredients for Pesto
lots of arugula (roughly one store bought package
1-2 cloves of garlic pine nuts, about 1/4 to 1/3 cup
romano cheese (optional), about 1/4 to 1/3 cup or to taste
about 1/4 to 1/2 tsp olive oil

A lot of making pesto is relative to how much you like of each ingredient.

The How to of Pesto Making
I make pesto in a food processor. First, fill the food processor with arugula leaves. Grind them down. Put more arugula leaves and grind them down again. Continue this process until all of your arugula is finely chopped

Next, add a clove or two of garlic. I don’t like a lot of fresh garlic in my pesto, even though it would seem that you can’t have enough garlic. A little fresh garlic goes a long way. There are many different types of garlic too, but that’s a whole ‘nother discussion that I’m not really qualified to get into. I like a mild garlic, which is usually the standard grocery store type.

Then, add the pine nuts. Add the romano cheese at this point if you too, if you can have dairy. I have never found a good substitute for pine nuts. You just have to bite the bullet and spend the money on them. You can use walnuts, but I think they are too bitter. Process the pine nuts enough that it chops up the nuts, but not enough to make pine nut butter. Pulse the processor if you have to. When it’s starts to stick together, stop processing! Ideally, you would want to stop before it starts to stick together, because that’s when it tastes like pine nut butter. You’ll know what I mean once you’ve made this mistake. I’ve done it more often than I’d like to admit.

For cheese, I prefer romano to parmesan. Again, it’s what I grew up with. We always had a jar of fresh grated romano cheese in the frig for sprinkling on all our Italian dishes. Romano has more flavor than parmesan, in my opinion, but use what you prefer. Since I can not eat dairy, I leave it out. The pesto will taste just fine without cheese.

Lastly, add the olive oil and a little bit of salt to taste. Try adding the salt in at 1/4 tsp at a time and taste it as you go. The romano will make the pesto salty tasting, but I like more salt than that. I don’t measure the olive oil. I just keep adding it until I get it to a consistency I like. You can pulse or run the food processor each time you add the olive oil. In the end, it should look like the regular basil pesto, but with a more vibrant green color!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. DAVs permalink
    May 22, 2009 3:41 pm

    Suddenly I am craving Italian food.

    I love olive oil..and garlic…and pesto. That pizza I make is all pesto, fresh tomatoes, squash, peppers, and a little Romano. Is there a crust you can make? I digress. I’m just hungry now.

  2. looking4#3 permalink
    May 22, 2009 5:55 pm

    Thanks for commenting on my blog. I just might end up being here EVERYDAY!!! I LOVE to cook, but I am pretty horrible at it. Hopefully, I can learn—hope you don’t mind!!!!

  3. May 22, 2009 6:34 pm

    Thats an awesome recipe! Thank you for sharing! Good luck with your journey!

  4. Hillary permalink
    May 23, 2009 6:55 pm

    I am hoping to start my very first garden this week — reading this post was inspiring 🙂


  5. Heather permalink
    May 24, 2009 8:10 am

    I’m a fellow pesto and arugula lover as well. I’m also Sicilian. And ages ago I found out it’s very common for people of Mediterranean and South-East Asian descent to be allergic to milk or be lactose intolerant. My father and I are both lactose intolerant and my brother is allergic to milk. No problems with wheat though.

  6. Blossom and Her Fruit permalink
    May 24, 2009 10:09 am

    I am a pesto fan too. My recipe is almost like yours but more garlic. I love it so much. Do you freeze any for a quick lunch in the winter? not the same but still homemade. hmmmm… i am so hungry now.

  7. kayjay permalink
    May 30, 2009 8:11 pm

    That is an awesome recipe. I am going to have to keep checking your blog on Fridays to get your recipes b/c I find it so hard to eat gluten free and dairy free and I run out of interesting things to make sometimes. To hear that someone else is like me is like balm to a wound.

  8. Elise permalink
    July 19, 2009 2:42 pm

    I've been gluten-free for 13 years (celiac disease) and love the idea of GF Fridays. I may have to steal this idea…


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