photo by Jennifer Johnson
Pesto is typically made from fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and olive oil. While it’s usually served over pasta, pesto has a multitude of other uses, like as a spread on sandwiches or tossed with roasted potatoes. Pine nuts are the traditional nut of choice, but we actually prefer pesto without any nuts at all. However, if you like nuts in yours, you can also try walnuts, pecans, or pistachios.
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra if needed
In a food processor, add basil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Pulse a few times to combine. With machine running, slowly stream in olive oil and process until combined and mostly smooth (we love it a little chunky but you can make it as smooth as you like).
Makes approximately 1 cup.
cook’s note; We’ve found the best way to store pesto is in an 8-ounce mason jar. Pour a thin, even layer of olive oil over the top to keep air from getting to the pesto, as that’s what turns it brown. Cover the jar, and refrigerate. After each use, add another layer of oil on top to keep the pesto covered.
SWAP 1: PARSLEY
Replace the basil with an equal amount of fresh parsley. Be sure to use the stems too (up to about 2 inches from bottom). The stems blend up well and it’s a great way not to waste them. And chances are you won’t even know they’re in there. We love a dollop of this pesto on a green salad, or in a bowl of vegetable soup.
SWAP 2: CILANTRO
Replace the basil with an equal amount of fresh cilantro (stems too!). We also love this version with the addition of the juice from 1/2-1 lime. It’s great served over a roasted vegetable salad.
SWAP 3: KALE
You may be surprised by this one, but curly kale makes a great swap for basil. Because the leaves are thicker than those of fresh herbs, you’ll probably need another 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to blend it up. A must for this version is the juice from at least 1 lemon. Try this on grilled cheese made with a blend of mozzarella and fontina.
SWAP 4: ARUGULA
Like fresh herbs, tender arugula leaves blend up well and offer another great variation. This one is a good topping/condiment for roasted or grilled fish. For a hint of sweetness (or if your arugula is a bit bitter), add a little honey to smooth it out.