10 Easy Pesto Recipes (And Only One Uses Basil!)

by Ashley Marcin on 25 July 2014 1 comment

I love summer (and fall) for the bountiful produce we receive from our CSA share each week. Thing is, as the weeks go on, the fruits and veggies start to pile up faster than I can use them in my cooking. Thankfully, I've learned some basic preservation techniques so we can enjoy them in the off-season. (See also: Preserving In-Season Foods for Off-Season Feasts)

Of all the foods to preserve, pesto is hearty and highly adaptable — and it freezes particularly well. I like using it on pizzas and pasta, and it even makes a perfect sandwich topper for most any combination I create. What's better? I have made pesto using a wide array of vegetables (and fruits), and each one has its own unique flavor.

1. Basil Pesto

I've made plenty of basil pesto recipes using raw basil with fantastic results. If you'd like to elevate your spread, try this classic Basil Pesto where the leaves are blanched, meaning they are boiled briefly, then shocked by an ice bath. The process helps the pesto gain a brighter green color and also mellows the bitterness.

2. Cilantro Pesto

For a different taste, try mixing together this Cilantro Pesto. It's basically the same standard basil pesto recipe, just using cilantro leaves instead. The flavors marry well with Mexican dishes like tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and more.

3. Garlic Scape Pesto

For a powerful dose of garlic and onion flavor combined, try using those curly green scapes in Garlic Scape Pesto. Just chop scapes finely and then combine with all the usual ingredients — nuts, garlic, Parmesan, and olive oil — in a food processor.

4. Kale Pesto

One of the most vibrant pesto recipes I've ever made featured kale as its base ingredient. This Baby Kale Pesto works great on burgers and uses almond meal versus pinenuts. You can also substitute out the Parmesan cheese for nutritional yeast if you'd like to make it vegan.

5. Spinach Pesto

Walnuts go well as the nut in this Spinach Pesto recipe. If you don't have the full 10 cups of spinach on hand, you can cut the recipe in half and make a smaller batch. If you do make too much, just freeze leftovers in a ice cube tray (I place mine in a baggie for extra freezer burn protection) for later use.

6. Tomato Pesto

I've made this Sun Dried Tomato Pesto using slow roasted cherry tomatoes. To roast, simply cut tomatoes in half, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then bake at 250 degrees Fahrenheit — tossing occasionally — for two to three hours.

7. Swiss Chard Pesto

For a quick weeknight meal, blend together this vegan Swiss Chard Pesto. The tough leafy veggie might not seem so appealing on its own, but when blended with olive oil, raw cashews, and a little basil to soften the flavor, it goes famously together with pasta.

8. Kohlrabi Pesto

Stuck on how to use the greens on your kohlrabi? (Yes! You can eat the greens, too!) The author of this three-ingredient Kohlrabi Greens Pesto recipe chops a bunch up and then sautes in some olive oil before blending together with nuts (almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, etc.) and a little salt and pepper.

9. Beet Pesto

This Beet Pesto recipe is sure to turn most any meal from blah to wow with its color alone. If you've never roasted beets before, just preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, scrub beets and chop off stems, then toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast in a dutch oven for an hour. Let cool before gently rubbing off skins before use.

10. Zucchini Pesto

This Zucchini Pesto is made with a half cup of spinach (or other greens) and raw walnuts for some fun flair. I have found that it's a wonderful recipe if you have leftovers in the fridge and just need to use them up. Since zucchini is watery by nature, you'll need less liquid, so be sure to add a little at a time to achieve your desired consistency.

What's your favorite un-basil pesto recipe? Please share a bite in comments!

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Wim Mathijssen

We love our rucola pesto, in which recipe the basil has been substituted by rucola. The other ingredients are the same as in the normal pesto recipe. If you think the rucola pesto is too strong, too sharp, you can add an amount of mascarpone cheese to soften the taste.