When you hear the word pesto, what comes to mind? Is it warm summer sun, basil and tomatoes, olive oil and garlic. I used to always think of pesto as being a basil based sauce, but then when I was living in Italy, I realized that the word pesto is a derivative of the verb pestare, which means to pound or crush, (since it was originally made using a mortar and pestle, which is still a super tasty way to make it), and that there are all sorts of variations of pesto. The one using basil, which is the one most of us think of when we hear the word, originated in the Liguria region of Italy.
We are far from basil season here in Scotland, but that doesn't mean I haven't been experimenting with variations of pesto using spring greens. I'll share three of my favorites below and also a general recipe using ratios that you can use to experiment with creating your own variety of pesto based on the ingredients you have available to you.
Basic Recipe for Pesto using Ratios
You can apply this to the suggestions below or use it to get creative)
2 cups greens (basil, parsley, kale, cilantro, etc,)
1-2 or more garlic cloves crushed and chopped (or substitute ramps in Spring).
1/4 cup nuts (walnuts, pine, pistachio, almonds, pecans, cashews, pumpkin seeds, etc)
About 6 Tbs olive oil
1/3 c grated cheese (parm, pecorino) Optional.
Nettle and Ramp (Wild Garlic)
Super simple, and very flexible with quantities so play around and see what suits your taste. You need nettles (about a handful or two fresh, but remember they sting so take care in handling them), ramp leaves (again about a handful), olive oil (to make a sauce), and salt to taste. Blanch the nettles in a pan of boiling water-this gets rid of the sting. Then drain them (I like to save the liquid to drink as a tea or add into soup). Place in food processor with ramp leaves, olive oil, and salt. Wiz until your preferred texture, I tend to like mine on the chunky side. Yummy on new potatoes or any other way you love to eat pesto.
Parsley and Pecan
Into your food processor put parsley, pecans, olive oil, garlic cloves (crushed and chopped), grated parmesan (optional) and salt. Wiz to desired texture and serve. I love putting a spoonful or two into scrambled eggs when I'm mixing them up.
Kale, Cashew, and Coriander (Cilantro)
You'll need about 2 cups kale (chopped, with big stems taken out), 1/4-1/3 cup cashews (opt soaked), olive oil as needed, salt, 1/4-1/2 c fresh coriander leaves chopped, juice of half a lemon, 1-2 garlic cloves crushed and chopped. Add everything into your food processor and wiz away. Yummy on new potatoes, baked fish, or anything else you love pesto on.