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The Coast News

Pesto perfection from Basiltops

David Boylan

Barry of Basiltops Pesto
Barry Reid with his Basiltops Pesto offerings at the Leucadia Farmer’s Market. Photo David Boylan

If you live in North County, there is a good chance you have seen Basiltops Pesto at a local farmer’s market, Whole Foods, or Seaside Market. Basiltops has been around since 1995, making what I consider to be the best packaged pesto I’ve ever had. It is still one of my weekly purchases at the Leucadia Farmer’s market and I sample a different variety weekly…it’s that addictive, and good.

I met the owner a few years back when she was still growing her basil in greenhouses behind her Cardiff home. She has since had to expand beyond that to a larger facility in Vista, but still grows the basil using a hydroponic method that she developed in Cardiff and that uses far less water than traditional irrigation. Part of this process involves using kelp and worm castings for nutrients. Whatever her method, it produced the basil that is the foundation for her amazing pesto, and that’s what I’m here to talk about.

The Pesto Perfecto is their best seller and probably the closest thing to traditional pesto they have. It’s made with fresh basil, olive oil, fresh garlic, walnuts, Pecorino Romano cheese, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper. I make a very similar pesto but use pine nuts instead. This is probably the most versatile sauce variety they make. Two more in the basil sauce category include sun-dried tomato and lemon-lime pesto that contain many of the same ingredients plus the unique flavors the tomatoes and lemon-lime add.

Their spicy basil pesto is also very popular. Pesto Diavolo adds chilis to the blend, and Pesto Roma and Pesto Habanero kick it up a few notches as well with the addition of the hotter chilis. And of course, given we are in Southern California, Basiltop’s offers some dairy free, vegan sauces. The dairy-free is just that, everything but the cheese which I guess makes it vegan as well. Then the Hemp Seed pesto takes it further down the granola road being dairy free, vegan, and no nuts. Hey, I’m thinking they probably sell their fair share of this stuff. It’s like those crazy coffee people with their paragraph long coffee orders except it’s pesto. I take my coffee black and my pesto perfecto. Sorry, I could not resist.

The most basic use of pesto is as a simple add-on to pasta, on toasted bread for bruschetta, and as a spread on any type of meat based sandwich. That said, I’ve used it in hummus, added it to butter and spread it on just about anything, but that combo is particularly good on corn or on a BLT to add a bit of Italian flair. It rocks on burgers, in gnocchi, calamari, clam linguini, chicken salad, and one of my favorites is in potato salad. So what I’m getting at here is that pesto is unbelievably versatile. Did I forget to mention scrambled eggs or an omelet? Holy cow, those are two of my favorite uses.

To tell you the truth, there is not much packaged pesto for sale that I would bother with. Basiltops has it going on and is better than anything I can whip together, but in a pinch, it’s not hard to make. Basil is quite easy to grow and nice to have around. Simply blend 8 cups packed basil leaves, 1 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, 2 to 4 garlic cloves and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor until almost smooth. Then stir in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, Pecorino, or Romano cheese, maybe more depending on the consistency you prefer. That’s it….pesto in a jiffy.

One of the cool things about Basiltops actually is the packaging. The clear plastic bags with a screw top enable you to squeeze it out in the portions you desire. I find myself squeezing it on to my fingers just about every time I open the refrigerator door. And the stuff seems to last forever, but honestly, I can’t say a pouch has ever made it past a week in my house. Basiltops is a local business with world-class taste and quality and worth supporting. You can get it all over town or order it from their website and send it to friends and family anywhere.

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