Perfect pesto for all occasions

Culture Food | Drink
Brontë Renwick-shields (photo)
Brontë Renwick-shields (photo)

Gourmet, green—pesto is my favourite food to experiment with. It all comes down to a pretty basic formula: toasted nuts, parmesan, fresh herbs, olive oil, garlic, and sometimes a veggie or two. Mix in a blender (or for the fancy, authentic folk, with a pestle and mortar). This combination is pretty open to play. There’s always the classic basil pesto combo, some more fancy ones, like roasted red pepper or sundried tomato pesto, but why stop there? There are many options to make your perfect pesto.

I like to stick to leafy greens for my veggies and a nut with a richer texture and flavour.  Cashews, pine nuts, and pecans are some of my favourites. Almonds are okay, but are a little bland sometimes. Peanuts can add more of an asian flare if paired with cilantro and some sesame oil and seeds. I tend to go for a bit more substance in my pestos by adding more than just herbs. Spinach and kale are my go-tos for basic pestos. A nice dose of dark green veggies for colour, but also for the sake of having veggies. Basil is the standard herb of pesto, but depending on your taste, you can play with some different flavours.

I was craving kale when I made this version. I had some pecans kicking around my pantry and goat cheese was on sale, so I thought I’d make a creamy pesto pasta sauce. You should try it too! But if kale and pecans aren’t your thing, play around with other ingredients and create your own signature pesto recipe.

Oh, and tip for St. Patty’s: green food pairs well with green beer.

Kale Pecan Pesto  

  • 1/2 bunch of kale
  • 30–60 ml (⅛–¼ cup) pecans
  • 30–60 ml (2–4 tbsp) grated parmesan (or more, if you love it that much)
  • 1–3 cloves of garlic
  • 60–125 ml (¼–½ cup) olive oil (keep some extra on hand in case it gets too thick, or sub the extra oil with water)
  • 4–5 leaves of fresh basil (or to taste)
  • Plain goat cheese (optional, to taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a frying pan, toast the pecans until they are slightly darker in colour and aromatic. Set aside to cool.

In the same pan, blanch the kale (steam it with a little bit of water until wilted and dark green in colour, then drain and squeeze excess water from the leaves). Set aside until cooled.

In a blender or food processor, add the pecans, kale, parmesan, garlic, oil, basil, goat cheese, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth.

If the mixture is too thick, add extra oil or water to desired consistency.

Serve in various forms, like as a pizza sauce, over your favourite pasta, or as a dip for veggies. The possibilities are endless.