It was an interesting dinner dilemma.
A huge bag of incredibly aromatic fresh basil. A heap of pasta that just begged for pesto. And one lactose intolerant dinner guest who couldn’t eat the Parmesan cheese that gives pesto its deeply savory flavor.
My options seemed bleak. Vegan pestos were out; they fool no one. I was leaning toward slicing the basil and tossing it with the pasta along with extra-virgin olive oil, minced garlic, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. That would have been fine, but then I started considering other ingredients that share Parmesan’s seriously savory (also called umami) flavor profile. Of those ingredients, which could handle being ground up into pesto? Bacon.
Just trust me. It was a stunning success.
The resulting pesto was meatier than conventional recipes, but not heavy in the way a meat sauce is. As it does with Parmesan, the taste of the basil cuts through the bacon.
This pesto is delicious tossed with pasta, but it also is great smeared onto slices of sourdough bread, topped with tomato and a slab of fresh mozzarella, then briefly broiled.