Recipe: Mix ‘n’ Match Pesto
- posted on: August 13, 2014
- posted by: 21 Acres
Hello! It’s Madeline today, 21 Acres summer intern.
If you’re someone who loves to experiment with and tweak recipes, then this post is for you. While traditional Italian pesto uses fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, and parmesan, there are many ways to experiment, especially if you’re using in-season and local ingredients.
Pesto: it’s one of those wonderfully forgiving recipes that’s fairly hard to mess up:
- It comes out too thick? Add more oil.
- Too thin? Add more greens or nuts.
- Love garlic? Go crazy with it, or try roasting it.
- All out of basil, but your garden is exploding with carrots? Use the carrot tops instead!
If you’ve never made your own pesto at home, now’s the time to try! I thought it would be fun to create a basic template for making pesto to give you more ideas on this nearly-foolproof spread. Here in the 21 Acres kitchen, our chefs are constantly experimenting with new variations on pesto.Get creative!
We even had a 21 Acres member event in August: Pesto Through the Seasons – click here to read the recap.
Mix ‘n’ Match Pesto
- Herbs or greens (~2 cups) – such as basil, cilantro, parsley, mint, carrot tops, spinach, arugula, kale, mustard greens, sorrel, or any other herb or leafy green
- Oil (~1/2 cup) – such as olive, grapeseed, safflower, etc.
- Garlic (as many cloves as you like – usually 2-4) – try using garlic scapes, or try roasting the garlic beforehand!
- Nuts or seeds (~1/2 cup) – walnuts, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pecans, almonds, cashews, etc.
- Salt (to taste) – don’t be timid with it!
- (Optional) Cheese (~1/4 cup) – parmesan, asiago, pecorino, etc. (I’ve even seen avocado!)
Blend everything except the oil in a blender or food processor, then slowly stream in the oil until it’s the consistency you’re looking for.
- For bitter or hardier greens (like mustard greens or kale), try blanching or sautéing them
- Younger carrot tops sometimes taste better
- Try roasting the garlic or sautéing it with the greens
- You can always use multiple types of greens, herbs or nuts in pesto, too, if you want just a hint of the more flavorful greens like arugula and mint
- Try toasting the nuts or seeds
- STORAGE: It’s best to use homemade pesto right away, but you can store it in an airtight container (such as a jar) in the fridge for a few weeks or in the freezer (jarred or in an ice cube tray) for a couple months. To keep it from browning, you can pour a bit of oil over the top in the jar each time after you use it.
- Vary the degree to which you process the pesto for chunkier or smoother sauce
Creative Ways to Use Pesto
- Toss with steamed or roasted vegetables
- Sauce for pasta (mix into marinara, cream sauce, or by itself)
- Stir into waffle or pancake batter for a savory twist on breakfast (top with an egg instead of syrup!)
- Stir into grain salad (rice, quinoa, farro, polenta, oats, etc.)
- Stir into hummus
- Bake into breads
- Stir into plain yogurt as a dip
- Spread on bruschetta
- Spread on sandwiches or wraps
- Use as pizza sauce (or in addition to)
- Use as a salad dressing
- Stir into softened butter to use on bread
- Use as a marinade for meats
- Spread on grilled corn
- Dollop on cooked meats
- Use to garnish soups
- Stir into scrambled eggs