Playing Around with Pesto (WFMW)

If you ask me, summer just isn’t the same without some fresh pesto… You can’t beat a fresh piece of crusty sourdough bread slathered with some pesto. I could eat that for dinner… And, I think I have on a few summer evenings!

We all love basil pesto… It’s a classic. But, there’s no reason to stop there… There are lots of other fantastic ingredients that result in fabulous and flavorful pesto!

I have to admit, though, that I rarely measure when I make pesto… So, instead of sharing a “master recipe” with you, I thought I would just give you a few suggestions to get your creative juices flowing.  There’s no recipe needed… Just throw a few things into a small food processor and give them a whirl.  I tend to like my pesto a bit thicker than some, but that’s the beauty of pesto… You can make it however you like.  It works for me, and I think it will work for you, too!

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Pesto Basics…

To make your own homemade pesto creations, you’ll need a few basic ingredients… You can mix and match your favorites (or use up some extras from your garden or CSA) to create your own signature blend!

  • Herbs, Greens, or Veggies… Sure, basil is the classic, but other herbs work great.  Use whatever you have on hand from your garden – cilantro, thyme, oregano, or even mint! I also like to use other greens like spinach or chard.  You can also mix it up with garlic scapes, fennel, or even some peppers!
  • Nuts… Classic pesto is often made with pine nuts, but they can be pretty expensive.  I often use walnuts because that’s what I have on hand, but pecans, almonds, and hazelnuts are great, too. For extra flavor, toast the nuts and let them cool before making your pesto!
  • Cheese… Hard or crumbly cheeses work best when it comes to making pesto… Parmigiano-reggiano is always great, but my favorite is actually grana padano. Other options include romano, aged asiago, or feta!
  • Olive Oil… This one’s pretty straight forward. Use a good flavored extra virgin olive oil since you will be able to taste it in the pesto (one you would use for salad dressing!). A flavored chili oil can also add a nice kick to your pesto!
  • Seasonings… I rarely add much additional seasoning to my pesto, but you can let your creative juices flow. For me, a bit of salt and freshly ground pepper usually does the trick!

To make pesto I simply combine everything but the olive oil (usually I use about 2 parts herbs or greens, 1 part nuts, and 1 part cheese, but feel free to mix it up!) and seasonings in my mini food processor (or a larger food processor if I’m making a large batch!) and give it a quick whirl to chop everything evenly.  Then, I stream in the olive oil until the pesto reaches the texture that I like.  At that point, you can season to taste and enjoy!

Since I can make pesto in just a matter of minutes, I use it as a sauce and a topping for all sorts of dishes in the summer… It’s great on pasta, pizza, and calzones.  And, I love to whisk it into eggs when I make a frittata.  It’s also great on a nice stack of tomato and mozzarella slices with a drizzle of Balsamic vinegar. And, of course, don’t forget to try it slathered on some crusty bread!

Pesto Recipes…

Want some more pesto inspiration? Here are a few great recipes to get you started!

11 Responses to Playing Around with Pesto (WFMW)

  1. I made my first batch ever of pesto last week. It was awesome and I look forward to doing it again. It was so simple it was ridiculous! I think it also helped that I hadn’t killed our basil plant as I had in years past. That was a definite plus. And it’s STILL alive! Woo Hoo!

  2. What does grana padano cheese taste like? I’ve seen you mention it a few times but I’ve never had it. Also, I think this would be a good reason for me to get a food processor :)

  3. While I’ve always loved the standard basil/pine nuts/parm version; the cost increase for pine nuts made me take a U-turn and you hit on my favorite…toasted walnuts. I really love it when I throw in a bit of lemon thyme too…and now, of course, I’m craving some for breakfast!