We’ve been making a lot of pesto lately. It’s great just to have on hand, especially for lazy summertime cooking. Dollop it on grilled vegetables, fish, meats, tofu, pasta, salads, eggs, toasted bread, pizza, sandwiches… you get the idea. It makes anything an instant tasty meal whether you really felt like cooking or not.
I have little sticky notes all over my kitchen scribbled with the various ingredients we’ve been subbing in (yes, that’s my organization “system”). Finally it occurred to me that I’m not going to send you to the store for a specific recipe. Instead, I’ll share a basic recipe and then offer some ideas of how you can change it up.
But the first thing you need to do is go look in your kitchen and see what you already have. You probably already have some kind of nuts, herbs or greens to use as a starting point. More often than not, if I make a pistachio pesto, it’s not because I’m trying to be fancy… pistachios just happened to be the nut I had that day. If I have some arugula in the fridge that’s getting close to it’s last days, I’ll use that. I have two huge basil plants so a basil combo is a common go-to for me.
I’m sure there are a million more ideas than the ones I’ve listed here, if you have a favorite, feel free to share!
depending on the variation, you will yield around 1 cup of pesto
2 big handfuls of basil
about 1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts
zest and juice of 1 small lemon
1 clove garlic
1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste
try 1 handful of basil and 1 handful of one of these:
or 1 handful of basil and about 1 cup of any of these:
kale (blanch it first)
zucchini (raw, cut into cubes)
sun dried tomatoes
roasted red pepper
1/2 an avocado
stems of green vegetables (boiled until soft)
try switching out pine nuts for:
(note: use unsalted nuts so you can adjust the salt level. toast lightly, and let cool)
red pepper flakes
use roasted or poached garlic instead of raw garlic
splash of champagne vinegar or balsamic vinegar (or more if you don’t have a lemon)
splash of agave or honey, if it tastes too acidic
Blend all ingredients, except olive oil, in a food processor. Drizzle in olive oil last while the food processor is running. (or if you don’t have that spout on your processor like I don’t, just put it in last).
Taste and adjust, adding more of any of the ingredients you used along the way until you create something you like. Every day I make a pesto, it’s slightly different. My lemon may have been more tart or sweet than another day, my garlic might have been more pungent, my basil might be sweeter depending on what season it’s growing in.
some other notes:
For a chunkier pesto, use a mortar and pestle (you may need to use less ingredients depending on how large yours is).
If you want a thinner pesto, add more olive oil. If you want to go lighter on the oil, add some water instead. Also, if you have leftover pesto, it’ll thicken a bit the next day. Add water or more olive oil to thin it out. I find that I can keep pesto for about 3 days, covered in the fridge. The one exception (given the choices above) is if you use an avocado. Avocado pesto will last only about 1 extra day.