Pesto über alles

Pesto – Say it and you get a love it or hate it reaction not dissimilar to oysters. The naysayers assumptions are that pesto is overbearing and hard to make, neither of which is true. Fact is, pesto is much more than you think it is and ridiculously simple to make. Let’s dig in.

OK, so classic pesto, the basil driven version, is in fact a delight and super simple to make. The potential variety is as broad as the options for the basil you grow. From Genovese to Holy, blue to Thai, the variety is broad indeed – African Blue, Purple, Red Rubin, Spicy Globe, Lemon, Lime, and Cinnamon all are readily available and truly speak to their names in taste and appearance. If you make identical batches changing just the variety of basil, each one will be completely distinct, and that’s just messing with the basil.

Toast the pine nuts, or don’t. Switch pine nuts for sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, Spanish peanuts, cashews, or brazil nuts and again, each and every one is completely unique.

Change garlic for sweet onion, red onion, shallot, or chive – Same deal.

Switch Romano to Parmiagano Regianno, Asiago, or Mizithra and again, totally new worlds.

So, here’s the basic:

Classic Pesto
1 Cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1-2 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons pine nuts
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor or blender and pulse until coarsely chopped.

Now, with the processor or blender running, add a thin, steady stream of oil to the mix and continue until you reach the consistency you like – ‘Pesto’ is paste, so you can go from runny to stiff, as you see fit. Finally, add salt and pepper sparingly, to taste.

If you’re eating it now, chuck everything into a mixing bowl, add the cheese and combine thoroughly by hand.

If you want to freeze your stuff to use later, which you sure can do, then leave the cheese out, put the pesto into an air tight container, drizzle a bit more oil onto the top and you’re good to go for at least a couple months. Just thaw, add the cheese and you’re there. Consider putting pesto into ice cube trays for the freeze; just pop out however many you need and off you go.

What to do if, regardless of variety, basil just don’t float yer boat? No worries; again, ‘pesto’ is just a paste, and you can make it with a bunch of alternatives – Here’s a few to getcha started.

Use parsley instead of basil, (Preferably home grown!) and walnuts instead of pine nuts, (Cheaper if nothing else) and you’ve got yet another new world to explore.

This is one of our personal faves; sub Cilantro for basil, pistachios for the pine nuts, and Queso Fresco for the Pecorino. Try it, you’ll like it.

Wanna try the Greek version? Sub Myzithra for the cheese and walnuts for pine.

Got the idea? I knew ya would – Here’s a raft of others for you to explore. All the procedures are the same as for the basic recipe.

Sub spinach for the basil, with any nut and cheese combo you like.

For a Great Northwet variation, try this.
1/2 cup fresh sage leaves
1 1/2 cups fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup Hazelnuts
1/2 cup Parmiagano Regianno
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2-3 Cloves Garlic
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Finally, here’s a great Thyme variant.
2/3 cups parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime thyme
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 to 1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon grated lemon peel
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper to taste

There’s enough to get y’all started; beyond that, you’re on your own, but share the good ones, OK?

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2 thoughts on “Pesto über alles”

  1. I use hazelnuts for my NW version (usually toasted, but skins left on). Also love to pair almonds with cilantro, or walnuts with parsley and a little fresh lemon zest, from organic fruit of course; once you know what’s gunked on fruit for storage/shipping, you will always buy organic, especially if you plan to use the rind….

    1. Excellent call, Sis, all around; made the switch to hazelnuts on the recipe, and add the almonds too – and great point on the citrus; bet there’s CSAs out there for that too!

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