Budget,  Garden,  Recipes,  Zero Waste

#FoodHack: homemade budget pesto

Pesto pasta is the ultimate easy meal when you’re exhausted and in pain.  Jars of store-bought pesto vary in quality and price.  Nothing beats freshly made pesto but traditional recipes call for expensive ingredients.  Here I’ve substituted expensive ingredients for much cheaper alternatives.


Skip the chat and download a print-friendly copy: Budget basil pesto


I have cinnamon basil, Thai basil, lemon basil and sweet basil which I’ve grown from seed. I’ve been slower to remove the flowers this year as I want to feed the local drought-ravaged bees.

I highly recommend growing basil.  It is very easy to grow and a small patch will provide you with a lasting supply of pesto and dried basil for cooking.  A few fresh basil leaves are great in a fresh salad.


I am not a follower of recipes.  I tend to throw ingredients together until it either tastes right or looks good.  This especially applies to when I make my own basil pesto.  A friend expressed interest in how I make my own pesto so I took one for the team and spent a morning measuring ingredients.  I suggest you start with this recipe and then make adjustments to suit your own personal taste.


Link: How to Make Pesto Sauce



  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 1 heaped soup spoon minced garlic ($1.20 for 250g)
  • 1/2 cup of fine grated parmesan cheese ($1.60 for 100g)
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice ($1.65 for 500ml)
  • 1/3 cup of walnuts ($8.99 for 500g at Aldi)




This is cinnamon basil. The stalks are ‘woodier’ and more prevalent than with sweet basil so I compost them. If you use sweet basil I suggest you use the stalks as well.

Get out in the garden and harvest as much basil as you need.  If you end up with more than two cups of basil you can place this is a paper bag to dry and store.

I have several varieties of basil in the garden and, if I’m using a variety with soft stalks, I use a pair of scissors to snip these off in manageable sections which I stuff into my mini processor.  Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth.  This will make one small 250g jar of pesto.

You might find the mixture is a little on the ‘dry’ side.  This is deliberate.

If you are confident you will use up your pesto within a week you can store it in a clean jar in the fridge.  Add a thin layer of olive oil to cover the pesto before adding the lid.  This prevents oxidisation and this is why the mixture is a little on the ‘dry’ side as you will be adding oil to the jar.

You can also freeze pesto for six months.  I purchased two Wean Meister Freezer Pods from Biome which I use to freeze single portions of everything from milk to eggs to tomato paste.  Once frozen they are easy to pop out and store in either containers or freezer bags.  If you are freezing your pesto you might want to add a little more olive oil to the mix or you can add it once defrosted.

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