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Pesto Variations

Pesto Variations

Pesto, of course, is not news, as wonderful as it is. It comes at us in supermarkets, on restaurant menus, and in so many guises and pairings that it's become an almost annoying commonplace. So why blog about it? Because we still can't get enough of it: on pasta, smeared on bread, in a sandwich, in a little blob on our scrambled eggs, wherever and whenever!  In the season when basil comes in armloads I'm making and freezing as many little containers as I can.

Another reason not to blog about it is that it's been done so much better by so many talented people. Take a look at Melissa's evocative post on her beautiful blog The Traveler's Lunchbox to see just one shining example. What, I ask you, could I add to the world's appreciation of pesto when there are people like Melissa who can do it so much better than I could?

But of course, there's always a new adventure around the next corner, no matter how well you think you know the trail. Last night I made another bucket of pesto, and, I decided to just throw in everything green and flavorful that I had in the refrigerator. Basil, of course, but also a huge bunch of turnip greens from last week, as well as tarragon, sage and parsley. The result, when it appeared on the table, had not only a fresh, interesting taste but seemed to glow a brighter shade of green than the usual basil pesto. (Honest, that's not spinach linquine in the picture -- it just turned that color when tossed in the "everything pesto!")  It was so striking and delicious that E convinced me to take a picture and agree to post it, even while I was protesting that "pesto's been done to death!" Paired with a simple salad of bibb lettuce, Wolf Pine Farm purple tomatoes, Vidalia onions and blanched baby turnips, and served with a crunchy marinated olive bread from Standard Bakery, this slight twist on the standard made a perfect late summer meal.

Pesto with Five Herbs
Adapted from Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Italian Cooking

(Makes about 4 cups. I usually use about half a cup for 8 oz of dry pasta and freeze the rest in half-cup containers.)

2 C basil (all herb meaurements were packed tighly)
2 C turnip greens
1/2 C tarragon
2 T sage
1/2 C curly parsley
1 C pine nuts
8 cloves garlic, minced
2-1/4 C olive oil
1 C Parmigiano Reggiano, shredded
1/2 C Romano cheese, shredded
6 T butter, softened

Note: with this quantity, the food processing needs to be done in batches.

Place the herbs, pine nuts, olive oil and garlic in the food processor with the steel blade in place and process several minutes, until the mixture is a smooth paste. Remove to a bowl. Add the cheeses and butter and mix with a rubber spatula. Salt to taste.

To serve with pasta, lift the pasta directly from the pot into the pesto bowl, allowing some of the pasta water to ride along. Toss thoroughly to coat the pasta. Serve immediately.


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Comments that is an interesting combo.

That does sound good, but i wonder if its not the butter absorbing the green and spreading it around? I've never put butter in my pesto before, nor have i heard of people adding it.

I think there could NEVER be enough said about pesto - it's just too good! And as you've so ably proved, the possibilities are limitless as well. I'm particularly intrigued by your addition of tarragon and sage in this one!

p.s. you're really too kind - thanks for the compliments, but I certainly don't do it any better than you! :)

The endless variations on pesto is my favorite thing about the versatile sauce. Something green, a nut, some cheese, a little salt, and pesto, I mean presto.

Pesto, the quiche os the eighties, as they say in "when harry met sally".
I´m a complete addict.
Great blog,btw

Arugula pesto (with pecans) is wonderful.

I LOVE the idea of using the turnip greens! This looks absolutely delish--and with all that olive oil (OMGoodness) plus the butter, I'm sure it was! Thanks for the great post. : )

I recently had pasta with turnips in Lucca, Italy, at the Trattoria da Leo on Via Tegrimi. We were wondering what we'd get when this delicious plate of bright green pasta was put in front of us. When I came back home, I went on a maniacal search for a recipe that approximated what I had. Using this recipe as a starting point, I substituted an additional cup of turnip for the basil and another 1/2 cup parsley instead of the tarragon. Also added some cooked mild italian sausage into the blender. Everyone loves it. When I can get my hands on that much tarragon for less than $6 (!) I will try the recipe as is. Thanks for bringing a little Italy to the Pacific Northwest.

Can one make pesto with a cheese other than parmisan? I am trying to eat only foods produced locally this month and parmisan is just not one of them--but I have basil but the bucket load. Mozzerella I can get locally. Any ideas?


Sounds delish. I don't often have a lot of french tarragon in my garden. But can't wait till the plants grown larger

I made an a very good basil pesto and added a garden fresh long green anaheim chili. We all loved it !

Sounds delish. I don't often have a lot of french tarragon in my garden. But can't wait till the plants grown larger

I made an a very good basil pesto and added a garden fresh long green anaheim chili. We all loved it !

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