Yesterday, we had a large black bunch of mint in the fridge, some sticky soggy parsley and a clump of basil that had seen better days. Add to that a hard rind of cheese and you can see why everyone wants to come to lunch here… I decided to whack it all in the blender and see if I could raise those sad soggy herbs from the dead… And voila. Lazarus pesto was born, and the guinea pig sulked a little, because he normally gets the ropey dead stuff.

I used Sainsburys Basics cashew nuts and gave them a thorough rinse to get all the salt off – find them in the snack aisle of the supermarket rather than the baking aisle, where they will be more expensive. You can substitute them for peanuts, which are also cheap, but give them a good rinse to get rid of all the salt.

Ingredients (made two decent sized jars):

Half a bunch of mint (50g approx)
Half a bunch of basil (50g approx)
Half a bunch of parsley (50g approx)
4 cloves of garlic
100g cashew nuts
Zest and juice of a whole lemon
50g hard strong cheese
100ml oil (I used groundnut, but vegetable or sunflower would work well)

Stuff the herbs in the blender – stalks and all – and pulse them to chop up finely. If you don’t have a blender, my favourite method of chopping herbs is to pop them into a mug and go at them with kitchen scissors – far tidier and easier than fiddling about with a knife!

Finely chop the garlic and nuts (by hand or in the blender) and grate the lemon zest and cheese, and add to the leaves.

Squeeze over the lemon juice and pour over the oil, and mix well to make your pesto. If you like it a little looser, add a splash more oil, or water.

Spoon into clean jars, and top with a thin layer of oil to keep the air out. Pop lids on, and store in the fridge for up to three weeks.

You can use any herbs to make a pesto, and greens too, so don’t worry if you don’t have my magic three. A fresh herb like mint or basil is pretty essential, but rosemary, thyme and parsley make a good winter pesto, and sage and parsley make for a good earthy base for a pasta dish – ideal with softened onions and cheese. I want to try a coriander and lemon pesto too – and judging by the flagging bunch in the fridge, I might just get the chance to..!!

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe


  1. that sounds delicious. Such a lot of lovely options there. I shall definitely try some of those. I have a big bush of rosemary, so will experiment with that.
    Have you found a way of using bay in anything like this? I love the taste and add it to many things, including soups. But when I accidentally whizz the soup with the bay still in it, it hasn’t softened enough to eat even after simmering for 20 mins
    got a big bush/tree of bay too

      • Could also put the bay in the oil you will use, a day or two in advance, to extract the bay flavor.

    • if you use the younger paler green leaves, they are much softer and more easily combined into food. I’d take out the stems and mid ribs too. The flavour is not so strong but they are a lot less tough and will mush into a stew cooked for a couple of hours. I’ve not tried them in anything else yet

    • Inspired by this I made a coriander and walnut version (had walnuts in the house, so figured why not!) – it’s so good! I could just eat it in spoonfuls from the jar! It’s also great because my partner doesn’t really like the flavour of coriander, so I can just add a dollop of this to my plate – I love coriander!

    • Lesley, I’d suggest making a bay infused oil – as it’s a woody herb a hot oil infusion might work best? Use the bay infused oil in your pesto. Bay is as you say, super hard and not very edible so it’s hard to imagine a way of using the herb itself as an ingredient.

  2. Fantastic! I have a growing suspicion that Jack could knock together something delicious armed only with the mold from the top of a hairy yoghurt and a few potato peelings. 🙂

  3. I have wild garlic in my freezer -picked too much last year and didn’t want to chuck away. Do you think it will thaw ok and still be usable for pesto?

  4. Great – I’ve also used sunflower seeds (+ some ageing walnuts + garlic). Incidentally, you probably mean that the cashew nuts can be replaced by peanuts, or (equivalently) peanuts can be substituted for the cashew nuts.

  5. Please get your guinea pig a friend or two! Guinea pigs are very social animals who only really thrive in a group! Love your website!!!

  6. Dear Jack

    I have no idea if you get time to read replies to your mails. However I wanted to let you know just how much I admire your feisty personality and that I read your mails avidly. I hope to get your book later this month. I am a similar age to your grandparents or maybe even older but your recipes and writings generally are well worth reading/trying out.

    Something you may be interested in trying is to put your herbs in glass jars (with lids) in the fridge. I find they keep much longer although the prospect of making your pesto could make me change my ways.

    Well done you!


    Sent from Windows Mail

  7. Hurray yr back have missed you. Love the whizzy new site. Who knew sainsburys did basics cashews not a good discovery I fear, as the peanuts disappear far too easily.

  8. I do a coriander and lime pesto regularly, kids love it! Big bunch of coriander, lime juice, cashews, pecans or any nut really that’s lying about needing used, garlic, Italian hard cheese, pinch of cayenne, throw it all in the processor, and voila, yummy pesto! Miles better than anything I’ve ever bought in the shops.
    Have only recently discovered this blog, but love the recipes 🙂

  9. I saw you on Sunday Brunch and it was just what I do! I try and allow us to eat at home well on a small budget by making my own stuff, ignoring packet rules and seeing what I can do with whats available in my fridge and the reduced aisle! I also freeze pretty much everything I can to save wasting stuff 🙂 can’t wait to buy your book! One thing which I do use is packet mixes (easy to leave with the other half lol) been thinking how to make my own up? X

    • I read somewhere that bay is actually poisonous! ii;s ok to use a leaf to flavour something, but take it out when you’ve got the flavour, and DON;T EAT IT!

      • I read years ago, that in a dish, not to use more than one leaf per person…it’s a heart stimulant so not good to have too much.

      • I don’t doubt that bay leaves could be poisonous, but I was told many years ago that the reason we don’t ingest them is that the stem and ribs do not soften, they can become lodged in one’s intestine and cause a life threatening (and painful), infection.

  10. I never knew pesto could be so easy. Will definitely be trying this and the coriander and lime too. I’m imagining stuffing a chicken breast with it and adding cheese and bread crumbs. Yum.

    • – Love the “waste not” philosophy and the name for this pesto! A short but important food safety note, though: there’s a risk of botulism associated with vegetables (such as garlic) and herbs stored in oil. Most should be used within *four days* of refrigerator storage, or then frozen.
      See this university website for details:

      “Pesto” is listed six items down in the “storage recommendations” section. They also give the handy suggestion that you try freezing them in ice-cube trays..!

      And congratulations on the book!

  11. Sounds great, I can’t do cheese, can i leave it out and add more nuts or is there a better substitute? Thank you

    • A small amount of white miso – a couple of teaspoons say – adds a rich savoury ‘umaminess’; but beware, don’t put in too much as you don’t want it to dominate your pesto flavour-wise, so be frugal with it and taste as you go. Also a tablespoon or so of “Nutritional Yeast Powder” (NOT BrewersYeast *or* baking yeast!) can work, though the only place I know who sell it in the UK is the online whole-foods supplier Goodness Direct (look for Engevita made by Marigold) It’s golden and ‘cheesy’ and makes a great savoury topping sprinkled on pasta instead of parmesan; it features in lots of vegan macaroni cheese recipes too!

    • you could kill two birds with one stone and use a nut cheese. It will add to the prep time though.

  12. Dear Jack, this homemade pesto is very nice and easy to make. Also handy when lacking time. Just cooking some pasta top it with pesto and ready or make a harty sandwich with extra taste by adding a bit of pesto.

  13. I bought a lemon balm plant last year and was wondering how I could use it, perhaps I could whizz the leaves with coriander to make a pesto. Do you think that would work?
    Love the new website!!!

  14. I’m SO glad you mentioned the cashews hiding in the snack aisle! I went out to the supermarket recently and was staggered to find nuts in
    1. The fruit and veg section
    2. The health food section
    3. The baking section
    4. The snack section
    It won’t surprise you that the most expensive ones were in the fruit and veg section in the very front of the store – allowing you to shove them into your trolley and maybe never consider that there is a cheaper option elsewhere.
    Inspired to rinse off the salt, making them useful for anything really.
    Do you ever push the boat out and have some sun dried tomatoes in the pesto Jack?

    • When I make pesto (and I’ve been doing so for over thirty years), I always toast my pine nuts or walnuts, so it seems a good idea to use roasted “snack” nuts. I would be tempted to leave the salt on, as I always add salt as well as a good grind of pepper into my pesto.

  15. You’re like a bus …. nothing for ages and then loads come along all at once. I’m not complaining though, some brilliant posts 🙂

  16. Hi Jack, I use coriander and pistachio which I get from the Indian supermarket pretty cheaply. With lots of black pepper it goes lovely on boiled potatoes with dhal or a Quorn rogan josh (sp?) – which is cheap with tinned toms as a base.

    Inspired by your salmon pasta by the way, my 10 month old is currently gobbling down some salmon and clementine pasta with a big grin on her face. Thanks x

  17. Love this Jack. Do you think we need to sterilise the jars or not? I’m never sure if we should or if it’s fine if they’re just clean from a soapy wash. Thanks 🙂

  18. Update on the cashews at Tesco’s – did a quick comparison and they cost per kilo as follows
    In the baking dept – 14.90 per kilo
    Whole foods dept – 15.20 per kilo *gulp!
    Fruit and veg dept 12.50
    Salted snacks dept 6.00
    The fruit and veg dept at the entrance prices them at over double the price per kilo compared to the salted ones – I’m still reeling from the shock of the 15.20 per kilo in the whole foods…..

  19. Hi Jack, just to say thanks so much for writing this blog your recipes are fab! I made this today and it was delicious. Flatmates were very impressed. Had no parmesan so just used cheddar, (added a bit extra) and used 100g of basil, 50g of coriander. It was really fresh and tasty! Now to look up some pesto recipes. Thanks again! X

  20. Just been sowing some herbs with some pesto in mind, Rocket grows freely in my urban back garden after sowing it a few years ago and reseeding itself, so might try something with this, do you grow food, just heard you for the first time on the John Murray show, love the tip above for washing salt off cheaper nuts, thanks!

  21. Bit worried about the guinea pig…he needs the Vitamin C and I think it goes off if the herbs are wilted..

  22. If you are out walking in the countryside (it’s coming to the end of the season for it now, but you can still find some) then pick handfuls of wild garlic leaves. It makes a fabulous pesto and is FREE!!!

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