Making pesto from the garden
I love making a mixed green pesto as it uses a variety of raw greens I know are good for me but I probably wouldn’t include in a meal unless I was having a salad or a smoothie. And I struggle with having a green smoothie. A traditional pesto recipe uses basil, pinenuts, garlic, oil and parmesan cheese but it’s very flexible really. When I make it I swap out pinenuts for whatever cheaper option I have on hand and instead of just basil I use whatever garden greens I’ve got growing. Here’s a recipe for you to try.
- 50g nuts – almonds, cashew or walnuts.
- 2 cups of loosely packed greens – parsley, coriander, silverbeet etc (washed with large hard stems removed)
- 4 TB (60ml) olive oil
- 1TB lime or lemon juice
- 25 g parmesan cheese – grated
- white or black pepper to taste
- 1-2 cloves of sliced garlic – confit or roast garlic works well
- apple cider vinegar
Pesto recipes will often get you to toast the nuts before using. I usually don’t as it’s just an extra step and pan to clean but feel free to do this.
Here’s my steps for processing the pesto in the spice grinder attachment of my food processor. I find the main processor doesn’t grind everything up small enough. Yours might be different – follow the same process.
- Grind the nuts and remove from the processor
- Add a third of the roughly chopped mixed greens along with the lemon or lime juice and 2TB oil. Whizz to a paste.
- Add another third of the greens and whizz then add the rest. Add more oil if necessary to make a fluid paste
- Add the grated parmesan cheese and a little white pepper and whizz to mix
- Olive oil. At this point you might have only added 2TB – add more to bring it up to 3 TB
- Add the now powdered nuts back in. In my spice grinder I do this in a couple of batches. Add more oil if it’s too thick. You may end up using more or less than 4TB – it’s more of a rough guide.
It’s not finished yet – taste. Although I’ve given some quantities the amount of everything can vary.
- Acid – your lemon or lime might be more or less acidic to your taste. Add apple cider vinegar or more juice if you prefer.
- Salt – parmesan cheese should be quite salty but add a little salt if it needs more.
- Garlic – I use to add garlic but don’t always now as the raw garlic taste can be overpowering. Confit or roasted garlic is nice in small amounts but again your preference will vary.
- Greens – pesto is traditionally made with basil but I don’t always have it growing and often don’t have much of it. Use parsley, coriander, beetroot leaves, silverbeet, bunching onion – whatever you have available. Peppery greens such as upland cress, rocket and nasturtium leaves add a nice peppery bite but don’t add too much. They can need more lemon or lime juice to balance them out.
Taste also comes down to personal preference. I’ve tried several pesto recipes over the years and have often been disappointed when I stuck to the recipe before I realised how many factors influence the taste (as I’ve mentioned). It can take a bit of tweaking once the pesto is blended but keep adding a bit more cheese, salt or juice until you get it to taste how you prefer. Then write down what you did so you can re-create it. If you’ve grown the greens yourself then making your own pesto is cheaper and fresher than buying it.
- As a spread on sandwiches or toast
- Dollop a spoonful into a bowl of soup (eg pumpkin or vegetable)
- Mix it with some plain yoghurt as a side dressing for a meal
- Use it as the base for a pasta or noodle meal. Freeze some to use for this.
Have you tried my pesto recipe or have a favourite you make? Let me know in the comments below 🙂