A bowl of penne pasta with pesto and a wooden spoon

pantry pesto

An extreme close up of a small white bowl filled with pantry pesto. Some of the pesto has spilled out of the bowl.
an extreme close up of penne pasta in a bowl coated with the pantry pesto blend
a wide shallow white bowl of pantry pesto pasta with a smaller white bowl behind it filled with pantry pesto

Should pesto appear on a menu, I must order it. This is basically a rule of life for me. I love a pesto sandwich, I love a pesto pasta. And usually, when I make pesto at home I follow The Food Lab‘s meticulous, slightly tedious recipe which involves blanching your basil to preserve the bright green color and fresh flavors.

But right now, we’re in the middle of an unprecedented modern global pandemic and fresh basil is hard to come by. I do have a few small pots of it growing thanks to my aerogarden, but to make fresh pesto you need a lot more basil than I currently have on hand. So what’s a girl with a pesto craving to do? I dusted off the binder of family recipes my mom gave me when I went to college and dug up the pesto I grew up eating, which is made (almost) entirely from dried herbs.

To help extend its shelf life I’ve given it a small makeover, swapping the fresh garlic for garlic powder (though I’ve included instructions for using fresh garlic) and I cut the whole recipe in half — the original made a whopping 3 1/2 cups of dried pesto which is just… more pesto than most people need. That said, if you’re feeding a family of 12, by all means, go ahead and double it.

Pantry pesto is a dried pesto blend. It’s not the smooth, partially emulsified oil-based sauce (condiment?) you’re used to buying in a jar or seeing spread on a sandwich. The dried herbs give it an earthier flavor and texture than you might expect from a bright, fresh, traditional pesto, but when combined with toasted nuts and parmesan cheese it’s impossible to mistake it for anything but pesto.

It’s great tossed with a couple glugs of olive oil on pasta with chicken, used with a bit of oil as a marinade, or added to a pan with roasting veggies. I make pantry pesto in my mini food processor which turns the dried basil and parsley flakes into a fine powder, but you can make it without one too — just know it’ll have more texture and might need more oil to help it stick to your noodles. And you’ll want a microplane if you’re using fresh garlic or a block of parmesan cheese.

pantry pesto preparation notes

  • If starting with whole nuts, toast them before processing to get a more intense flavor. To toast, place whole nuts on a sheet tray in the oven at 350F for 5-10 mins, stirring every 2-3 minutes.
  • Store in airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 months (but only 2-3 weeks if you use fresh garlic).
  • To freeze, place pesto in airtight container or ice cube tray with enough olive oil to cover it. To use, toss pesto cubes into a hot pan or pot with cooked, drained noodles to melt the oil and coat the pasta.
A bowl of penne pasta with pesto and a wooden spoon

pantry pesto

The Practical Kitchen
When it comes to a flavorful, shelf-stable pesto, you don’t need to look any further than your own pantry. Use 1-2 TBSP pesto blend per serving of pasta.
0 from 0 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 2 cups

Ingredients
  

  • ½ cup dried basil flakes
  • ½ cup dried parsley flakes
  • ¼ cup walnuts, chopped
  • ¼ cup almonds or pine nuts, chopped
  • ¾ tsp garlic powder (or 1-2 cloves garlic)
  • ½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • olive oil (for getting it to stick)

Instructions

  • Combine parsley, basil, nuts, garlic, and salt in a food processor. Run on low speed 30-40 seconds until evenly combined. Stir in parmesan cheese.
    If you don’t have a food processor: Finely hand chop and crush the nuts, microplane or mince the fresh garlic (if using), and stir everything together to combine.
  • Serving option 1: Toss with cooked pasta, chicken, and/or veggies along with a large glug or two of olive oil, enough to get the dried pesto mixture to stick.
  • Serving option 2: Cook pasta according to al dente package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water, strain pasta and return to pan over medium heat. Add a glug of olive oil, a few tablespoons of the pesto blend, 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan, and half of the reserved pasta liquid. Stir until the pesto uniformly coats the pasta and no liquid is left in the pan. Add additional pasta water if needed.

Notes

  • If starting with whole nuts, toast them before processing to get a more intense flavor. To toast, place whole nuts on a sheet tray in the oven at 350F for 5-10 mins, stirring every 2-3 minutes.
  • Store in airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 months (2 weeks if you used fresh garlic). To freeze, place pesto in airtight container or ice cube tray with olive oil. Toss pesto cubes into a hot pan or pot with cooked, drained noodles to melt the oil and coat the pasta with pesto.
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