Poor Man’s Pesto

And the seven years of famine began…and there was great hunger in the land…

Over here, we’ve had a few weeks of plenty, also known as carb overload. We’re trying to be done eating chametz in the house by the middle of the week so we know that what we clean stays crumb-free. As my sister’s friend said last year, cleaning for Pesach (Passover) with kids at home is like brushing your teeth while eating an Oreo. So, we’ve been eating lots of macaroni and cheese, lasagna, French toast casserolechallah kugel, birthday cakes, cookies, zucchini muffins, and banana muffins. On Friday afternoon, I used up the very end of the flour to make peanut butter swirl double chocolate fudge brownies, and they came out so good that I would love to share the recipe, but I can’t because there is no recipe. I know, real bakers out there, I committed a baking sin. I didn’t spoon and level the flour or sift the dry ingredients together or cream butter and sugar. I bake like your bubby. I just threw some oil, sugar, cocoa, etc into a plastic bowl and mixed with a wooden spoon. I didn’t measure anything. I’ll let you in on my secret–my Pyrex measuring cup broke months ago, and I haven’t replaced it yet. But you’re not here for a brownie recipe anyways. This is supposed to be a healthy food blog, right? Until Pesach, this blog is going gluten-free.

Pesto. It’s popular for a good reason. The main ingredient, basil, is worth buying just to make my refrigerator smell good. Garlic is also a starring flavor and healthy to boot. The problem with traditional pesto, other than that basil is not readily available all year, is the extra ingredients:

  • Pine nuts, I discovered when I was first married and gifted a bag along with the apartment where we were living, are a great salad topper. They’re nutty, but mild. In pesto, they add a richness to the flavor. When that first bag was empty and I went to buy more, I learned how expensive they are.
  • Parmesan cheese is out because it’s dairy. I like my pesto parve so I can spread it on challah on Shabbos. It’s also almost as expensive as pine nuts.

So, what’s left to put in poor man’s pesto? I know people who replace the pine nuts with walnuts, but I find this unnecessary. This pesto is not as rich-tasting as one made with pine nuts and Parmesan cheese, so it’s not as tasty to eat straight with a spoon, but for adding to salads or using as a spread, it’s great. I like to use it to dress tomato salad. My pesto has just four ingredients: basil, garlic, olive oil, and salt. Process, and presto! You’ve got pesto.


Pesto spread on cracker


spaghettini with flaked salmon and pesto

Poor Man’s Pesto Recipe
Yield: about 1 cup

1 large bunch basil (about 4 cups loosely packed leaves)
5-6 cloves garlic
1/3-1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt


  1. Wash and dry basil leaves and remove from stems.
  2. Place basil, garlic, and salt in food processor.
  3. While the food processor is running, add olive oil until the pesto has reached the desired consistency.
  4. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides a few times.
  5. Serve as a spread on matzah, crackers, or bread, or as a salad dressing.



About israelisalad

I'm an American-Israeli mother who loves to make healthy food from fresh ingredients, on a budget and with limited time. My site is full of easy, healthy recipes and insights into life in Israel.
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8 Responses to Poor Man’s Pesto

  1. annika says:

    Still sounds yum without the pine nuts… I will have to give it a try! I already leave out the cheese most times.

    Liked by 1 person

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  7. Marie says:

    I’m enjoying your blog! I use sunflower seeds to replace the pine nuts. I developed a tree nut allergy in middle age, strangely, so walnuts were out… I keep trying to figure out your holiday names and how they correspond to what the Bible says. [I’m one of Jehovah’s Witnesses] I got Pesach correct, lol.🙂 On another note, I recently saw Exodus: Patterns of Evidence on Amazon. It proves the truthfulness of the Exodus in Moses’ day. I think you might like it.


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