3 Ways to Get Creative with Pesto

3 Ways to Get Creative with PestoI have a garden overgrowing with so many different herbs, about nine different varieties at least, and each one growing more fiercely the more I use them. Do you have an herb garden, are they thriving too? That’s the beauty of fresh herbs, the more you snip, especially before seeding, the more you get. So I’ve been doing just about everything to use them up, freshly snipped atop grilled squid or salads, in my go-to grilling sauces, and now in these unique takes on the classic pesto.

Herbs are insanely aromatic and naturally add a unique taste in whatever you use them, something salt just can’t simply do on its own. I love cooking with them, I mean seriously, there isn’t a meal I make that doesn’t have herbs in it.3 Ways to Get Creative with PestoIn its basic form, pesto is made of five ingredients that get blended together: an herb, an acid {typically lemon juice}, cheese, toasted nuts and really good olive oil. Once you’ve gotten the most basic pesto recipe, down you can then make endless combinations and variations. And don’t be afraid to mess around with ingredients, although I wouldn’t go as crazy as using candied nuts. But fennel tops to earthy herbs to pistachios and even gruyere cheese, you can create versatile pestos perfectly unique, and delicious for summer entertaining.

Don’t just use pesto atop crostini or swirled into pasta either. Pesto is a great marinade for grilled meats, fish and vegetables, spread onto sandwiches or the most refreshing and tasty dressing for a summer salad. And when you’ve got a garden overgrowing with fresh herbs, pesto is one of the best ways to use them all up. Make a few varieties and freeze them for an easy access to fresh summer herbs at anytime. Since homemade pesto does have a shorter shelf life, freeze them in canning jars, in small plastic bags or individually in ice cube trays. You can’t beat cooking with fresh summer herbs all through fall and winter, because you know you’ll be craving anything that reminds you of warm weather once it gets colder.3 Ways to Get Creative with PestoThere’s always a time and place for classic basil pesto, so I couldn’t just share pesto variations without sharing the original. Mostly because it’s my favorite too, although I’ll say Lemon Thyme comes in at a close second. But not all basils are the same, do you know there’s several varieties, each with a different flavor. I used a blend of sweet basil, the most popular and commonly found, as well lemon basil which gives this classic pesto a slightly spicy taste. A nice surprise to a mostly subtle flavor.3 Ways to Get Creative with Pesto

3 Ways to Get Creative with PestoLemon thyme pesto is perfect for those who put lemon on just about everything. It’s light and delicate, yet slightly woodsy. It can be tedious to remove the leaves from its stems, but I highly recommend it. I got a bit lazy and left a few stems in this pesto, and they wouldn’t chop up no matter how long I pulsed the pesto, and you definitely taste them. Word to the wise, any fresh herb that has woodsy stems, thyme, rosemary…the stems can’t be pureed. But everything else, like parsley, cilantro, basil, go ahead and add those stems in.

3 Ways to Get Creative with PestoAnother woodsy herb I’m constantly using is sage, especially during fall and winter months, yet I often neglect it during the summer when the plant really thrives. I dry a lot of it, but was pleasantly surprised when I used it to make pesto. When choosing a earthy herb, like sage or rosemary, blend it with a milder herb like parsley and oregano, which balances its mostly woodsy flavor. This is a great one to use on meat or crostini with melted smoked gouda.

3 Ways to Get Creative with PestoGouda, yes, go ahead and experiment with that in your pesto too. That’s the thing, don’t feel you need to settle with just hard cheeses, like Parmigiano. I’ve seen pesto recipes use queso fresco and feta too. I don’t often use hard cheese on a daily cooking basis, so I used them in these pesto recipes because I already had them on hand, but feel free to experiment with some of your favorites. Vegan, oh I’ve got you covered. I featured this vegan pesto before, and it’s just as delicious.3 Ways to Get Creative with PestoCurrently I can’t get enough of these pestos on my salads, but if you serve up an array of creative pestos at your next summer shindig, you’ll definitely be a hit!

 

Basil Pesto 

Ingredients {Makes about 12 ounces}

2 cups – Fresh Basil {I used a blend of sweet + lemon basil}

A few sprigs of Fresh Parsley {stems removed}

1/2 cup – Fresh Oregano {stems removed}

1/4 cup – Parmigiano-Reggiano

1/4 cup – Toasted Almonds

2 tablespoons -Fresh Lemon Juice

6 tablespoons – Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Recipe 

In a food processor or blender, add the basils, parsley, cheese, almonds, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Pulse until the mixture is roughly chopped. With the food processor running add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream and pulse until the mixture becomes smooth. Add a few tablespoons of water to thin pesto, if it is to thick. Serve immediately or  place in an airtight container, refrigerated up to 7 days or frozen up to 4 months.

Sage Pesto 

Ingredients {Makes about 8 ounces}

1 cup – Fresh Sage

1/2 cup – Fresh Parsley {stems removed}

1/2 cup – Fresh Oregano {stems removed}

1/4 cup – Parmigiano-Reggiano

1/4 cup – Toasted Walnuts

2 tablespoons – Fresh Lemon Juice

6 tablespoons – Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Recipe 

In a food processor or blender, add the sage, parsley, oregano, cheese, walnuts, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Pulse until the mixture is roughly chopped. With the food processor running add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream and pulse until the mixture becomes smooth. Add a few tablespoons of water to thin pesto, if it is to thick. Serve immediately or  place in an airtight container, refrigerated up to 7 days or frozen up to 4 months.

Lemon Thyme Pesto 

Ingredients {Makes about 6 ounces}

1 1/2 cup – Fresh Lemon Thyme {stems removed, just leaves}

1/2 cup – Fresh Parsley {stems removed}

1/4 cup – Pecorino Ramano

1/4 cup – Toasted Walnuts

2 tablespoons – Fresh Lemon Juice

6 tablespoons – Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Recipe 

In a food processor or blender, add the lemon thyme, parsley, cheese, walnuts, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Pulse until the mixture is roughly chopped. With the food processor running add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until the mixture becomes smooth. Add a few tablespoons of water to thin pesto, if it is to thick. Serve immediately or  place in an airtight container, refrigerated up to 7 days or frozen up to 4 months.


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