pestoThis is a nut-free version of pesto using sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts.  To get a truly sensational pesto sauce you need to use a mortar and pestle rather than a food processor or blender.  Pounding the basil results in a beautiful creamy sauce and it’s much more fun to make.
SeasonSummer, Autumn

Difficulty:  Easy

Serves: 6 at home or 24 in the classroom

Fresh from the garden:  basil, garlic

Recipe Source:  Adapted from the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation


  • metric measuring spoons and cups
  • 2 clean tea towels
  • chopping boards & non-slip mats
  • 1 small knife
  • small non-stick frying pan
  • scales
  • mortar and pestle
  • 1 medium bowl
  • grater
  • colander
  • spatula
  • serving plates

  • 60 g parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds (or pine nuts)
  • 2 large handfuls basil (about 2 cups well-packed leaves)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • sea salt
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil


What to do

  • Set out your equipment and ingredients.
  • Weigh the parmesan and grate it.
  • Place 2 tablespoons of the seeds (or nuts) in the frying pan and dry-fry over a medium heat until golden.  Set aside to use as garnish.
  • Gently pull the basil leaves from their stems.  Rinse the leaves and dry by rolling in a tea towel.  Place the leaves in mortar and the stems in the red compost bucket.
  • Peel the papery skin off the garlic and put in the mortar with a little sea salt and pound until the garlic is a paste.
  • Add the rest of the seeds (or nuts) and basil leaves to the mortar and pound the mix until you have a rough paste.
  • Slowly mix in the oil.  You should have a creamy paste, the same consistency as mayonnaise.
  • Using the spatula, scrape the pesto into the serving bowls with the parmesan and stir to combine.  Taste for salt and season if necessary.
  • Toss with the pasta and garnish with the toasted seeds (or nuts) and some extra basil leaves.


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