There’s no excuse to let fresh produce go to waste. Almost anything can be pureed or processed into something delicious. Spread it, toss it, sauce it or freeze it, pesto is the ideal food saver. And it’s also a great use for an abundance of fresh ingredients.
Experiment with different types of nuts. See how the flavors change by adding pine nuts, walnuts or pecans. Toasts them or omit the nuts entirely. And of course don’t forget the cheese! Parm is traditional, but why not mix in a softer cheese, like goat or feta? It smooths out the paste and balances the flavors. Some choose to omit any cheese, especially when freezing. (I don’t see any harm in it personally.)
Don’t get hung up on what you think a pesto should be. In Camogli, Italy, the fresh, sweet basil was hand pounded with only a tiny bit of garlic. The brilliant green sauce for the homemade pasta was tremendously flavorful and allowed the essence of summer to come through.
If the Italians can limit the garlic, then anything goes with pesto. Bunches of basil are just the beginning. Have some extra spinach or arugula that’s on its last legs? Add it to the basil or make a puree out of the greens alone. Extra bell peppers? Mix them in with some greens, peas or herbs. Roast the peppers first for a smoky and sweet flavor.
Want to be more daring? Mix in some strawberries with your basil and parm. Fruit “pestos” might not work so well on pasta, but as a topping for crostini — yum! These also make a nice appetizer for a summer dinner party.
Here’s a recipe for scape pesto to help you get started:
Garlic Scape Pesto
Approx. 10 garlic scapes, trimmed
3 tbps of lemon juice
1/4 cup of pine nuts or walnuts
1/4 cup of parm
1/4 cup of olive oil
Mix scapes and lemon juice in a food processor. Blend in the nuts. Add oil as needed. Mix in the cheese at the end to taste. Remember that the pesto will mellow. Top some crostini with the pesto and a dab of fresh ricotta. Toss pesto in some pasta (hot or cold). Freeze extra in ice cube trays to use later.