We tend to think of Basil as the herb of choice for pesto making and it certainly makes a delicious dish. The more adventurous of us pick wild garlic in Spring or chickweed through much of the year to make alternative, and equally yummy, versions but herbal pestos can actually be made from just about any tasty culinary herb.
As anyone who knows me can attest, sometimes I lean towards the disorganised, and on days when I’ve forgotten to get food in for dinner this is one of my handiest recipes. I like to call it, ‘make something out of nothing pesto’ or simply ‘random pesto’. It’s never quite the same as it depends on which herbs are looking good in the garden at any given time but it usually involves a small handful each of three, four or even five different herbs. It’s nice to nip out with your gardening scissors and snip a bit of each herb knowing they will all fuse together into a delicious alchemy of flavours.
Last night I made a beautiful and strongly flavoured pesto from sage, oregano and basil with the usual garlic, olive oil and nuts of choice, in this case cashews. I’m a big fan of adding a sprig of rosemary and a few chives to my pestos as well as a pinch of salt and pepper.
You can use just about any herb that you like the taste of. Lovage and parsley are nice with chives. Marjoram and thyme work well with basil and a little bit of mint (don’t over do it or it’ll end up tasting like mint sauce!). In spring a few nettles make a nutritious addition, though do of course make sure they’re well blended before eating them.
Whilst pine nuts are particularly good, they seem to have been vastly expensive this year so I’ve tended to use other nuts and seeds or a mixture of whatever happens to be in the cupboard. Cashews, pecans and walnuts are all first rate, as long as the walnuts are young and fresh without the bitterness that develops as they age.
And don’t just have it on pasta. It’s lovely on salads, crackers, bread, baked potatoes or added to other dishes to increase flavour.
See here for my recipe for wild garlic pesto, posted earlier in the year.
What are your favourite pesto ingredients? I’d love to hear!