How to: Make Pesto…and Use it!

My food processor was one of the first small kitchen appliances I owned.  My parents bought it for me as a housewarming gift when I moved into my first grownup basement apartment in the big city.  At the time it was one of the fanciest things I owned, so I displayed it with pride on my kitchen counter and tried to use it for as many meals as possible.

One of the first things I tried to make was mashed potatoes. I thought ‘sweet, these are gonna be sooo smooth!’. Well, if you count the texture of Elmer’s white glue as smooth, I totally nailed it. Food science lesson learned – never use a blade to ‘mash’ potatoes because the fluffy little pockets of starchy goodness will get mangled and sticky.

These days my food processor is hidden with the lasagna dish and wok in the kitchen cupboards, but I still use it all the time and my kitchen wouldn’t be complete without it.  I’ll bust it out most often for homemade hummus or pesto, and occasionally for this rockin’ vegetarian bolognese recipe.

Pesto is a perfect ingredient to have kicking around year round. Traditionally it’s made with basil leaves and pine nuts, which is totally delicious but the ingredients can be a wee bit expensive. Outside of summer, large bunches of basil can also be tricky to find leaving you stacking multiple packs of prepackaged basil in your supermarket cart.

Pesto works with many different greens and many different nuts.  I often use spinach for a mild tasting pesto, and arugula if I’m looking for a bit of a bite.  If I buy a big box of spinach or arugula for salads and I don’t use it all, making pesto is a great use for the slightly wilted leftovers.

Pine nuts are pricey so using almonds, walnuts and cashews are great less expensive alternatives.  I’m dying to try this broccoli pesto recipe from one of my all time fave blogs Smitten Kitchen.

Pesto can be used a dip, a pasta sauce, to top meat, fish or tofu, and even as a pizza sauce. A spoonful in a bowl of plain vegetable or chicken noodle soup also adds great flavour and freshness.

Pesto also freezes extremely well in ice cube trays if you don’t need a big batch all at once.  Once they’re frozen, pop em’ out and transfer to a plastic baggie to save on freezer space.

Pesto

Serves 1.5 cups
Prep time 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 cups leafy greens such as basil, spinach or arugula (packed)
  • 1/2 cup nuts such as pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, cashews (preferably toasted)
  • 1 Small clove of garlic (roughly chopped)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Optional

  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions

1. Add leaves, nuts and garlic, lemon juice and parmesan cheese to food processor
2. Process the ingredients and while machine is running, drizzle the olive oil into the mixture in a slow stream until incorporated
3. Add salt and pepper to taste and pulse to mix until incorporated

 

Using toasted nuts is a way to add another great layer of flavour to your pesto.  Add the nuts to a sautee pan or fying pan over med-low heat. Stir or flip the nuts every 30 seconds or so for 3-5 minutes until lightly browned.  Here’s a good chance to practice your pan flipping skills like a chef! It’s all in the wrist!

Here’s a batch of spinach and pinenut pesto with parmesan cheese for a pizza sauce!

Whole wheat greek-style pita pizzas with spinach pesto, cremini mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and feta cheese.

Presto! pesto pizza!

Erin

3 thoughts on “How to: Make Pesto…and Use it!

  1. Looks lovely. We also make it using tomato sauce instead of the oil. Then freeze it for later use. Lends a different flavor to dishes. One interesting thing: when we are in Italy, they make it without any garlic, and use partly pine nuts and partly pistachios…very interesting flavor combo.

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