Why is pesto so amazing?
Pesto is packed with delicious fresh flavor and loaded with nutrients, too. And it’s easy to make. I mean really, come on. Think about how hard it would be to mess up a recipe where all you’ve gotta do is blend some fresh herbs with a few other ingredients.
I love classic basil pesto, but I’m going to show you how I twist the tradition to achieve the exact texture and flavor I want. For example, my recipe is heavy on garlic, but instead of fresh, minced, garlic, I roasted it to perfect the flavor. Roasted garlic has a sugary sweetness to it, and that sweetness provides the perfect flavor balance. I think that this missing sweetness is the problem with some pesto recipes that just somehow seem to miss the mark on flavor.
How did I mastermind this herb blend? Sorry, no masterminding to explain. I just used what I had a ton of in my garden at the moment. It just happened to turn out amazingly well.
What else makes my pesto so much better than others out there? (That’s in my own humble opinion, of course.) I added a little roasted onion. Ok, so, the vidalia onion is not a traditional ingredient, but it provides this amazing texture dimension you won’t find in other recipes. It’s hard to explain why the roasted onion is so great, but you seriously just have to try it.
One more thing: I used pistachio instead of traditional pine nuts (I like pine nuts, but I’m bored with this flavor) or walnuts (although a super common alternative to pine nuts, I find walnuts give the pesto a weird chalky texture.)
Twisted Traditional Pesto Recipe
1.5 cups fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
1 cup fresh oregano leaves, lightly packed
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
1/4 cup dill, stems removed & chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, roasted
1/4 cup sweet vidalia onion, cut into big pieces (about 1-2 inches each), then roasted
2 T. pistachio nuts, finely chopped
2 T. fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan or romano cheese
- Rinse all herbs under cool running water and remove stems. You don’t have to remove ALL the stems from every leaf, but make sure you get rid of the large, tough stems. Those will mess up your texture.
- After rinsing, spread herbs on a paper towel to dry for about 20 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Preheat your oven to 200 F. Remove onion skin and chop about 1/4 cup of vidalia onion into 1-inch pieces. Separate 4 cloves of fresh garlic, but leave the skins on.
- Spread the onion pieces and garlic out onto parchment paper, and roast at 200 F for about 12-15 minutes, until just slightly browned.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the herbs, then mix in and evenly distribute the pistachio, lemon, and cheese (you can use your hands – just make sure they’re clean! – or use a large mixing spoon)
- Don’t add the oil yet, but pour out and set aside your 1/2 cup portion next to the food processor.
- Take the garlic and onion out of the oven. Onion should be slightly golden on the edges, and garlic cloves should be soft and lightly browned. Remove the skins from garlic cloves, and allow onion and garlic to cool to room temp.
- Now, combine the garlic and onion in the mixing bowl, and transfer the herb mixture from the bowl to your food processor.
- Once everything is in the food processor, NOW you can finally add just a little olive oil. To get the perfect creamy pesto texture, you are going to be adding oil in increments, then processing. So drizzle a just a little bit of olive oil over the mixture before you put the lid on and start processing. After processing for about 20 seconds, remove the lid and drizzle in more oil. Lid goes back on, then process another 20 seconds. Keep adding olive oil in increments and processing until your pesto is creamy and all the olive oil is blended in.
- Taste your pesto – you may decide to add a little salt and pepper.
I do provide a lot of detail in this recipe, but it is not complicated. In fact, I can explain pesto-making in a much simpler way : you blend herbs and a few other ingredients in the food processor. Then you’re done.
Oh, and if it seems like you made an awful lot of pesto? Not a concern. Pesto is so tasty it’s addictive, so you’re guaranteed to eat it all.
Pesto is so easy to store, too, so go ahead and make a double batch. You can refrigerate for 5-7 days, but if you make a large batch it’s a good idea to freeze some in portions. I freeze my pesto in an ice tray, then transfer pesto ice cubes to ziplock bags.
Here’s my chilled pesto pasta salad
Pesto, I love you in so many ways…
- Of course, pesto is great on pasta and veggies. You’ll love it mixed with grains, too, like farro or quinoa.
- Try mixing pesto into any mash – potatoes, beets, or cauliflower.
- Add to pizzas or flatbreads, or serve with grilled shrimp or steak tacos.
- Try spreading pesto on your sandwich- mix it with your mayo, or skip the mayo and just use pesto instead.
- Pesto’s got more flavor than that boring basil leaf, so spoon it on a slice of tomato with fresh mozzarella. Balsamic vinegar. Sea salt. Cracked pepper. Done.
- My favorite? I love to spread pesto on an english muffin to go with my scrambled eggs. Oh, and I have a creative favorite pesto idea, too — I used it as a base for both a marinade and a salad dressing. So much flavor & so, so good!
What’s your favorite way to eat pesto? I love hearing from you, so please comment or message me anytime!