We’ve been making a lot of pesto lately. It’s one of my favorite condiments, especially for lazy summertime cooking. I like to dollop it on grilled vegetables, pasta, spaghetti squash, salads, eggs, toasted bread, pizza, sandwiches… you get the idea. With just a few easy steps, it makes anything an instant tasty meal whether you felt like cooking or not.
What is pesto, and how do I make it?
Traditional pesto is a blend of fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, extra-virgin olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. With a food processor, it comes together in just a few steps:
- Pulse the nuts and garlic in the food processor until they’re finely chopped.
- Add the herbs and lemon juice and pulse again.
- Next, drizzle in the olive oil with the food processor blade still running.
- Finally, add grated Parmesan cheese and process briefly until combined.
That’s it! It’s really simple to make, and it’s easy to vary according to the season or your mood. It will keep for a few days in an airtight container in the fridge, though its surface may start turning brown. As a result, it’s best to cover your pesto with a thin layer of plastic wrap before sealing your container. This will keep your pesto fresh and green!
Pesto Recipe Variations
Once you’ve made the classic basil pesto recipe, it’s time to change it up! You can make it out of so many different types of nuts, seeds, veggies, and leafy greens.
Here are some of my favorites…
- Swap out pine nuts for any nut of your choice! I particularly like walnuts and pistachios.
- Use any herb or leafy green. I like a combination of parsley & cilantro, or use part basil and part arugula. Finely chopped kale leaves are also a great combination with basil!
- Don’t let your stems go to waste. Blanch kale stems and blend them into pesto with basil leaves or another herb.
- Punch up the flavor! Add a roasted red pepper, sun dried tomatoes, a charred jalapeño, artichoke hearts, etc.
There possibilities are endless – let me know if you have a favorite variation!
Once you’ve made this recipe, add it to a quinoa salad, a summer Caprese salad, a grain bowl, toss it with pasta, scoop it onto spaghetti squash, or mac and cheese, or incorporate it into this yummy baked zucchini dish.
- ½ cup toasted pine nuts
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 cups basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more for a smoother pesto
- fresh black pepper
- 1 cup chopped kale
- 1 cup cubed raw zucchini
- 4 artichoke hearts
- 1 roasted red pepper
- ½ an avocado
- ½ cup kale stems (boil until soft)
- Hemp Seeds
- Parmesan cheese
- Nutritional yeast
- Red pepper flakes
- Charred jalapeño
- Sun dried tomatoes
- Splash honey or maple, if your pesto is too sharp
- Pulse the nuts (or seeds) and garlic in a food processor. Add the herbs (and/or veggies) and pulse again.
- Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper and pulse again.
- While the blade is running, drizzle in the olive oil. Scrape the sides of the food processor, if necessary, and pulse again. Season to taste. For a smoother consistency, add more olive oil.