Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Problem with Pesto

The classic pesto with pasta
… is that it is so darned easy!

A bunch of herbs tossed in a food processor with a handful of pine nuts or walnuts, garlic cloves, parmesan cheese, and a drizzle of good olive oil, makes the most flavor-packed topping for pasta, vegetables, crostini or meats.

Once you see how easy it is, you'll be making it all the time, too!  Especially now, because ...

It's January, and we're craving something fresh and green on our plate.  Sure, the heavy foods of fall and winter made us feel all warm and cozy inside ... and it may still be cold outside, but we've started a New Year and we want to see a bowl of freshness set in front of us.  We want something flavorful and herbaceous (my new favorite word) to wake up our palette and brighten up any post-Holiday winter doldrums.

Luckily for us, the whole point of pesto is the freshness of the herbs or greens blended into a magnificent toss for pasta or vegetables.  There's almost nothing more delicious than a bowl of hot pasta tossed with such a bright, vibrant, and flavorful sauce!

Basil leaves in a food processor
And it's so easy to make, there's simply no excuse!

There are some things I would never dream of buying at the grocery store, and pesto is one of them ... not when a handful of ingredients and a food processor is all it takes to make one of the most amazingly delicious and freshest pasta "sauces" you can imagine.

The jarred versions with their drab green color, vinegar (Vinegar does not belong in pesto!), extra preservatives and food colorings will never fool us into believing there's any freshness left in there at all.  No, jarred will never do!

You can make pesto with just about anything green and leafy.  I never throw out excess herbs or greens, but instead will often turn them into a quick pesto for an easy dinner that I can throw together anytime in a flash!  Besides the classic basil pesto, I have made pesto with arugula, parsley, and even cilantro.  Try making it with spinach, kale, carrot tops, or broccoli (we'll never tell)!  Here are some good pesto recipe ideas that will turn you into an absolute pesto-magician: and

Stashing any leftover pesto in the freezer means I have an instant flavor-packed topping for steak or vegetables whenever I need it (try it instead of a chimichurri or bottled steak sauce), or an instant boost of seasoning for soups, stews, meatloaf or meatballs, or even homemade vinaigrettes and dressings.  A couple of spoonfuls of homemade pesto can be the secret weapon in your cooking that sends the flavor profile of your dishes over the top!

Vividly fresh and incredibly delicious!
Even when pasta is not the main attraction on the plate, tossing any pasta, ravioli or tortellini with pesto makes a superior side-dish.

Coating cut vegetables in pesto before roasting them in the oven makes them exquisitely flavorful.

Top a baked potato with it, swirl it into mashed potatoes for a fast flavor boost, or toss it into any salad!

Use it as a rub on chicken or fish before grilling, or top a sizzling steak or chicken breast with a spoonful of pesto to melt over each bite ... heavenly.  Leave a bowl of extra pesto on the table to spread on dinner rolls, as well.

Need an appetizer in a hurry?  Spoon some on crostini, or set out as a spread with crackers or bagel chips.  Spear a baby mozzarella ball and a grape tomato with a toothpick, add a small bowl of pesto for dipping, and you've got an appetizer-size caprese salad.   It makes a superb bite to go along with wine or cocktails.

I'm personally infatuated with this Lemony Pea Pesto right now, for a slightly different take on the easy classic.  I can imagine a dallop of it on crusty bread, or layered over some fresh ricotta and lasagna noodles for a winter dish that's as satisfying as it is vibrant.

There's almost nothing that pesto doesn't pair well with, and it adds such incredible flavor to your cooking that there's no reason not to make some today ... for a hit of freshness on a cold January day.

Spring will be here sooner than we think, and we'll be making pesto pasta salad (with artichokes) soon, right?  Might as well get practicing on your technique!

Happy New Year!!!

Enjoy previous seasonal blog posts:

New Year's Resolutions

A list of fun things to look forward to in the year ahead!
A Fresh Start

Healthful smoothies to begin the year off right!
Never On The "1st" Date

Laying the groundwork for the success of your goals and resolutions
How It All Began

The very beginnings of Afternoon Tea
Travel Plans

Planning some new sights and scenery in the New Year
Top Chef - Colorado

A celebrity in the family!
A Tale of Two Bread Puddings

So different, yet both so good!
Salty Sweets

Finishing salts on your dessert
Romancing Your Life

Setting the scene to fall in love with your own life
Romantic Foods

Something special ...
The Romance of Travel

Falling in love with a new destination, adventure, and vistas
Food Porn
It has become a national obsession ... we're salivating over food and all the food shows on tv
The Lenten Season

A reminder that accepting the challenge of self-discipline is good for the soul
Spring Cleaning

Tackling and taming the clutter 
Cooking with Herbs
Herbs are making a tasty appearance in some of your favorite desserts!

Locally-grown farm-fresh products and produce are the best!
Herb Harvest

There's nothing like growing your own fresh herbs!
Sunshine In A Jar

Preserved lemons are a game-changer!
The Icing on the Cake

Does a bakery really need to make frosted layer cakes?
What's Your Favorite Cake?

If only I could pick just one!

Oleoestepa Olive Oil ... our favorite olive oil right now!
The First Sign of Spring Quiche

Spring means quiche, at least it does at my house!
Do-Gooders!  My sister's non-profit, Healing Warriors Program, gives away a state-of-the-art electric wheelchair! Donate if you can!
Healing Warriors Program, my sister's nonprofit, does very important work for our soldiers' wellbeing

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