We adapted these recipes and created a delicious pesto bar taste test. Each version has its own special use. You’ll see! Pesto is not limited to basil!
The word “pesto” is actually derived from the word pestle which is how pesto was first made, by crushing all the ingredients together with a mortar and pestle. Have fun experimenting with you family and friends!
The following recipes make enough for one pound of pasta. To serve, the pasta should be drained, rinsed with hot water, returned to the pot and the Pesto added while the pasta is still hot. Mix thoroughly.
If you like to make more than one batch of pesto at a time and freeze in dinner size batches, one convenient way to freeze small amounts is to use quart size freezer zip-lock bags. Press all the air out and smooth the bag out flat and then stack one on top of the other in the freezer.
To use, let thaw in the refrigerator or bowl of hot water or heat briefly in the microwave.
Pesto is best preserved in oil, with or without other pesto ingredients, and then frozen. Because the oil doesn’t freeze hard, little chunks are easily broken off to add to soups and sauces. It’s a wonderful quirk of fate that basil and tomatoes are ready for harvest at the same time. Other herb pestos can be made year round!
- Base Recipe Using Fresh Basil -
for about six servings of pasta
3 cups packed fresh basil leaves (removes stems)
3 large garlic cloves
½ cup pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, or a combination
¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Combine everything in a food processor and pulse until coarsely and evenly chopped. Toss with hot drained pasta or gnocchi.
- Base Recipe + Thyme Pesto -
Follow ingredients and instructions for Basil base Pesto – using Thyme leaves (if fresh tips, no need to de-stem) 1 cup of leaves, and you could use chopped pecans vs pine nuts. We have tried both.
- Base Recipe + Sage Pesto - or
- Base Recipe + Oregano Pesto -
Always make your paste first (use base recipe of garlic, nuts, oil and Reggiana or parmesan) then add 1 cup oregano (no stems).
To make savory Sage pesto add to the base recipe ¾ cup Sage (no stems). Any variety except Mexican sage will taste wonderful.
- Tarragon Pesto -
1 cup of fresh tarragon (if not woody but young fresh tips, no need to take leaves off stems)
1 cup of Italian parsley
¹/3 cup pine nuts (sautéed in olive oil/cooled)
3 cloves of garlic/chopped
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup grated parmesan/reggiano
Pinch salt and pepper
- Cilantro Pestos -
One of our top choices!
Can you make pesto with cilantro instead of basil? Yes, because it’s the technique, not the ingredients, that gives the sauce its name (in Italian, pesto means ground or pounded). When you blend other pesto basics—Parmesan cheese and olive oil—with cilantro in place of basil, the resulting sauce has the same bright green color, but a distinctive flavor that builds delicately after a few bites. Like pesto made with basil, this sauce is versatile.
- Cilantro Pesto with Lime -
Pack 2 cups fresh cilantro leaves and stems into a measuring cup; you’ll need about ½ pound. In a blender or food processor, grind cilantro with 2 cloves garlic, ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, ¼ cup pine nuts, and 2 teaspoons grated lime peel until very finely chopped. Squeeze in juice of one lime. With motor running, add 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil or salad oil until mixture is the consistency of a thick paste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Adapted from Sunset Magazine, July 1, 1984
- Cilantro Pesto with Peanuts -
Makes 1½ cups
2 ounces (2 tablespoons) butter
1 ounce (3 tablespoons) roasted, unsalted peanuts
1½ cups loosely packed cilantro leaves
2 fresh Jalapeno pepper (seeded if desired)
4 ounces peanut oil or 2 ounces each peanut and cottonseed oil
¼ cup Argentine (or other) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Salt & pepper to taste
Place butter and peanuts in a food processor. Process until pureed. Add cilantro and Jalapeno pepper and process briefly until incorporated. Drizzle in all of the oil while machine is running. Add Parmesan and salt.
- Pesto Pantesco -
(We really were surprised about how good this is. No cheese, add capers!)
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped (take out seeds, leave ribs)
2 cloves garlic not chopped
2 tablespoons salt packed capers that have been soaked and rinsed
1 cup mint
1 cup basil
1 cup parsley
some fennel fronds (tops)
2-3 chiles (jalapeno, serrano, whatever you like)
extra virgin olive oil
Use as part of an hors d’oeuvre or served it atop some freshly-baked pizza or baked tomatoes. Could be served tossed with just about any non-filled pasta: ziti, spaghetti, penne, etc.
Halve medium size tomatoes, taking out the seeds with a sharp spoon and leaving the ribs. Bake on an oiled cookie sheet, add salt and pepper and drizzle on oil. Bake for 3 hours at 200 degrees. Try a dollop of pesto on top!
Pesto makes a wonderful spread for sourdough bread (add a little left over barbecue chicken and a fresh tomato slice on top) and even as a gourmet coating for popcorn.
Serve over freshly cooked pasta, mixed with cream or sour cream if desired – pass grated parmesan cheese at the table
· Use as the base for pizza – brush onto uncooked dough before adding additional ingredients
· Brush onto toasted French bread slices, top with cream cheese, tomatoes, feta and Kalamata olives
· Serve over new potatoes instead of butter
· Use as dressing for pasta salad
· Add a few tablespoons to chicken salad
. Try adding feta and kalmata olives