Cheap Eats — Pesto

by Katy on July 25, 2008 · 7 comments


I may be in a time warp, because I am freshly in love with pesto. I know that the rest of the world went pesto-crazy 10+ years ago. But here I am in 2008 trying to figure out how to work this magical green paste into everything I cook.

My sister Sara was over at the house all day prepping the backyard for a brick patio. She was doing some pretty serious manual labor and working up an appetite. I wanted to make a nice lunch for everyone. Here’s the thing though:

Sara is a vegan.

I had already made her a nice burrito the evening before with beans, peppers and onions. All seared in a cast-iron skillet. Yum. This is my vegan-for-Sara standby, and I’d served it way too recently to offer it up again.

I happened to notice a big basil plant, ($4) I had impulse purchased at Trader Joe’s last week and began to hatch a plan.

I had some pecans in the freezer that my mother had brought home from a trip to Texas. I know pesto is supposed to have pine nuts, but my cooking style is all about figuring out substitutions. How bad could it be?

So I threw a big handful of pecans into the food processor. (The frozen nuts were satisfyingly loud.)  I then added a handful of basil, and four cloves of garlic, olive oil, plus salt and pepper. 

Wowie-Zowie, this stuff was good, really good!

I served it over spiral pasta, with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese on top and everyone scarfed it down. 

The confluence of cheap, healthy, easy to make food that is actually enjoyed by the 10, 12 and 42-year-olds in my house is a depressingly rare. My sons can be picky, but in completely opposite ways. 

Unfortunately, Sara’s boyfriend was craving burritos, so they missed out on our fabulous lunch.

Sad for them, delicious for us.

This cost this meal was: noodles, ($1) basil, ($1) garlic, (10 cents) olive oil (maybe 50 cents) and the pecans (free!). Plus, I have enough pesto leftover for a few more meals. 

Cheap food does not have to be unhealthy and flavorless. So I will say this only once, Non-Consumers:

Stay away from the ramen!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy July 25, 2008 at 5:05 am

Pesto is delicious. It seems like any combination of a green, a nut, and a cheese can make a good combination. I never make any because the nuts are just so much more expensive than anything else. It’s nice that you got pecans for free, but pesto isn’t very cheap normally, especially since pine nuts are around $16/lb usually.


thenonconsumeradvocate July 25, 2008 at 10:28 am

Yes, the nuts would normally cost a pretty penny. But this meal was all about looking around my immediate environment and “making do.”

I wonder if sunflower seeds, which are fairly cheap could be used?

Thanks for your comment.



Rebecca July 25, 2008 at 11:35 am

Walnuts work, as well, and cost less than pine nuts. Chopped walnuts in the baking aisle are maybe $2-3 for a bag.

I like pesto as spread for bread or crackers with some crudite for dipping.


BohoBelle July 30, 2008 at 2:32 pm

You inspired me the other night. We were going to cook Fish Pie, but it was late so we decided to whip up a quick Pesto Pasta instead – But… the jar wasn’t in the fridge, it wasn’t in the cupboard… no idea where it went, maybe we didn’t buy it after all. BOO

But then I remembered your blog and we headed out into the dark garden beds and picked bunches of fresh rocket and blended it up with roasted cashews and parmesan.

It was fast, fresh and fantastic. 🙂 Thank you for the idea.


Karen September 20, 2008 at 9:18 am

Pesto on toast! Pesto in scrambled eggs!


Anthony Perez April 21, 2009 at 2:37 am

There are ways to get free nuts and other fruit that grow on trees…In the city and suburbs there are trees planted that bear nuts and fruit. Here in LA there are groups that go and gather them…Most are sitting outside next to the public side of the sidewalk and would go to waste otherwise..
My understanding it that these groups have been springing up in different cities and states so you my want to look for one and youd come home with some free goodies that otherwise no one would have used..


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