Pesto Your Way

This post appeared on my original (blogger/blogspot) blog in September 2013.  If you have any links to that aren't working, I apologize!  In moving over my url to this new platform I seem to have sent my old blog and posts into a tailspin somewhere in cyberspace.  I am not advanced at technology but I am working on the problem!  In the meantime, some of my favorite posts will migrate to this new platform.  Enjoy!

I am a pesto fiend.  FIEND.  My sweet son is taking after me.  Just this morning, I made us fresh backyard scrambled eggs with homemade arugula pesto for breakfast.  He ate spoonful after spoonful of the pesto.  All told I estimate that he had about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of pesto for breakfast this morning- and not a single bite of eggs.  (Since my petite toddler doesn't eat much of anything, I think the nuts, olive oil and arugula will do him some good.)

Over the summer months, when the garden is in full swing I make a lot of pesto.  Much of it gets frozen for use over winter and some gets put directly into the refrigerator where we put it on eggs, sandwiches, fresh tomatoes, homemade pizza, mix it with plain yogurt for a yummy vegetable dip or with a bit of oil and vinegar drizzled over fresh salad greens.  There are a million ways to use it -and use it we do.


The making is pretty simple: I never, ever use a recipe.  Mostly, I use what I have.  I'm convinced that it's impossible to make a bad pesto.  You throw all the ingredients in a food processor, process until it's smooth and you're done.  I've learned to tweak here and there, what types of cheeses and nuts I like best, but really any will do, and even if all you have is oil, garlic and greens- it will do. 

Here is a rough guide for you to use at home with whatever you have.  There is no wrong way to make it- just go for it, taste, add more or make a mental note to add less next time.  This is an excellent way to use up summer greens - those that are overly abundant, and those that you just aren't sure what to do with.  (And maybe a good way to get some green veggies into your little picky eaters too).

Basic Ingredients:

  • 2-4 cups greens
  • 1/4 cup-1 cup of olive oil
  • 1/4 cup -1/2 cup nuts
  • 1/4 cup - 1 cup of grated cheese - or just broken into small chunks
  • 2-4 cloves garlic
  • pinch to 1/2 tsp salt
  • pinch to 1/2 tsp pepper
  • optional additions

About the Ingredients:

Greens: Think beyond the box.  Basil is absolutely yummy.  But it's only in season during the warm months.  There are so many other greens that make an excellent pesto too (and I have used them all).  Arugula, mustard, mizuna, kale, chives, cilantro, radish greens, turnip greens, dandelion greens, collards, spinach and my personal favorites - garlic scapes or mibuna.  Hardier green like kale or collards tend to be more fibrous so use more oil with those greens.  Anything goes.  If it's an edible green, you can turn it into pesto. 

Nuts: They aren't totally necessary, and some pesto's are just as good without them.  Though the traditional pesto maker goes for pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds and even pumpkin or sunflower seeds will do.  As an added bonus, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are MUCH cheaper and most who have nut allergies can safely eat these (always check first though!)

Olive Oil: Use a decent oil if you can- but for the sake of our food budget I never spend too much on olive oil.  In a pinch I've used other oils that we have had on hand such as sunflower seed oil, but prefer the flavor of olive oil.

Cheese: Hard cheeses like parmesan, asiago and pecorino all work well, however, you can leave the cheese out entirely in a pinch (I have before) and still have a delicious pesto.  I personally say, "Bring on the cheese."  If you add more than less cheese, you may need to add a touch more of oil, as cheese tends to dry out your pesto.

Garlic: To each his own on how much garlic you like.  Just be sure you won't be kissing anyone who hasn't had any of your pesto.  If you're using garlic scapes as your green there is no need to use additional garlic at all.

Salt & Pepper: Again- to each his own!  I like just a touch of saltiness, and find too much overpowers the other flavors.  Course kosher salt or sea salt makes a big difference in flavor rather than table salt.  We keep pepper grinders stocked and on hand, so our pepper is always fresh.

Optional Ingredients: squeeze of lemon juice, grated citrus rind, dash of nutmeg, tiny hot chili pepper... let your imagination run wild!  I learned in Italy to add a dash of nutmeg and a tiny ground chili pepper to pesto, and almost always make it this way.  It adds a hint of complexity and heat and is delicious.  We use tiny dried chili's that we brought back from Italy and grind them with a bit of salt in a mortar and pestle.  (We STILL have some left, nearly 8 years later!)  Experiment!

Whatever combination of ingredients you use, drop them all into a food processor and you're practically finished.  I have made pesto before without a food processor, and while it is entirely possible, it is a bit tedious.  If you don't have a food processor though, it's totally worth the work.

Share what you've tried!  I'm always in the neighborhood for a new pesto idea...