May 31, 2016
With summer finally here and an abundance of fresh herbs on the way, it’s time to learn how to make one of my favorite ingredients: pesto. I’m a huge fan for several reasons, the primary of which is that pesto is a rare food that is both wildly versatile and kid-friendly. Whether you use pesto to toss with pasta, baste baked chicken, top your pizza (or make Pesto Pizza Rolls), or combine with mayo for a delicious sandwich spread, the kids will be happy you did.
As if that alone is not enough, pesto is also a great way to preserve herbs because it freezes beautifully. Oh, yea, which makes it an easy thing to make ahead in a big batch to have on hand for a quick meal on your busiest evenings.
If you think basil when I say pesto, you’re not alone. But—yet another virtue—pesto can be made with a huge array of herbs and even leafy greens like kale and basil. It can also be made vegan by skipping the cheese (though keep in mind that you may need to adjust the other measurements to achieve your desired texture).
I have tons of pesto recipes on the site, from Kale and Walnut Pesto to Arugula and Almond Pesto, that you can grab from my pesto recipe round-up. Definitely hop through the recipes, but this is the place to start and end: This is the all-purpose recipe that you can use to make ANY version you want.
For every 3 cups of fresh herbs you also want:
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon citrus juice (zest, too, if you want a stronger citrus flavor)
1/4-1/2 cups of nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4-1/2 cup grated cheese
For a traditional pesto, you’ll use basil + garlic + lemon juice (and zest, if you want; here’s how to zest citrus) + pine nuts + olive oil + Parmesan. I also like using this basic version to combine basil and spinach, a recipe that I share in Make It Easy. You can also try:
Cilantro + garlic + lime juice + pepitas + olive oil + cotija
Parsley + garlic + lemon juice + walnuts + olive oil + pecorino
Arugula + garlic + lemon juice + almonds + olive oil + provolone
Oregano and parsley + garlic + lemon juice + pistachios + Parmesan or romano
And if you like heat, you can also throw in some fresh jalapeno or a pinch of red pepper flakes.
So many possibilities! Just pulse all the ingredients other than the oil and cheese into a paste, then add the oil in a steady stream with your food processor running. Once you get the right texture, turn off the machine before adding the cheese. Then pulse—do not let the machine run; watch to learn why—until everything is well combined. Voila. (Or should I say presto? Sorry, I had to!)
The only rule is to taste along the way and keep making adjustments until you get the taste and texture you want.
-Tell me: What combination of herbs, nuts, and cheese are you planning to use to make pesto?-
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