When the season changes and the weather warms, I crave the herby flavor of a freshly made pesto. The farmers markets are teeming with lovely fresh herbs, and pesto can be made a variety of ways depending on which greens I have on hand. Generally I make pesto with pine nuts, but recently I had a batch of shelled pistachios on hand and thought– why not? I toasted them on the stovetop and made a batch of roasted garlic-infused olive oil. Roasting the garlic gives it a milder, sweeter flavor and makes the pesto easier to digest. I only had a handful of basil but plenty of mint, so this pesto is mint-heavy. I think the flavors work quite well together with the pistachios to create a unique spring or summer pesto.
Traditionally pesto is made with fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, salt, and grated parmesan. Over the years cooks have taken many liberties with the pesto concept, using sun dried tomatoes, different nuts, and a variety of herbs to change the flavor of the spread. Here are my basic pesto recipes, with cheese and without (vegan), if you’re looking for something more basic:
While I have a particular fondness for the traditional version of pesto, it is fun to get creative and try new flavor combinations. Once you get the hang of it, pesto can be a really versatile cooking concept that will add an herby punch to your everyday cooking.
This Pistachio Mint Pesto can be used to marinade vegetables or fish, added to salads or as a topping for bruschetta. With 4th of July around the corner, pesto is a terrific sauce to have on hand– it can enhance the flavor of many grilled dishes. One of my favorite ways to use it is to cook some pasta, reserve some of the cooking water, and mix a little of the water into the pesto– it creates a creamy, dreamy pasta sauce. The possibilities are endless!