Verdant, peppery, bright green pesto is one of those things we could put on anything — heck, you could put it on a rubber shoe, and it would probably still taste delicious. It’s usually made out of fresh basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, garlic and olive oil, but did you know you can actually make a pesto out of pretty much anything?
That’s right: you can make green pesto out of almost anything. All you need is a leafy herb, a nut of your choice, and a salty grating cheese. This is a technique that comes in handy when basil’s not in season and pine nuts are sold out, or when you simply have too much of something green that’s lying around. I can’t lay claim to the ratios — they’re a variation of a recipe I clipped from a flyer years ago — but they have been a saving grace whenever I need to get rid of an abundance of fresh herbs.
The basic ratio is 1:2:2:8 (1 part nuts, 2 parts oil, 2 parts grating cheese, 8 parts leaves or herbs), plus garlic, lemon and salt and pepper to taste. Allow me to demonstrate:
First, start with a few cloves of garlic. One or two will do. Pulse it a few times until roughly chopped.
Throw in 2 packed cups of fresh leaves or herbs. Some starter suggestions: basil, coriander, kale, carrot tops, parsley, spinach, mint (or a mixture of a bunch of things).
Add in 1/2 cup of oil. I usually use extra-virgin olive oil because I like the flavour, but you could experiment with any oil that has pleasant but mild flavour, like avocado oil, flaxseed oil or walnut oil.
Add in 1/4 cup nuts of your choice: pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds, pistachios, cashews… the options are endless. Toast them if you so desire.
Pulse and and blend in your food processor (a blender will work in a pinch) until smooth.
Add in 1/2 cup of any grating cheese you’d like. In addition to Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino, Asiago, Romano, Grana Padano or Roncal would all work.
Blend until the cheese is just incorporated. Add in the squeeze of half a lemon, and season with salt and pepper. Taste and ask yourself: does it need more acid? More salt? More pepper? Do I want it to be thinner? (If so, just blend in a little more oil.) Then you’re done!
Add it to whatever suits your fancy. Of course it’s great tossed with pasta, but pestos area also a fantastic flavour boost stirred into soups, tucked under chicken skin, or baked onto fillets of fish.