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In your kitchen, do as you like, some of the greatest Italian pesto chefs say. There are variations on the classic basil pesto recipe to cook up a storm when entertaining. From vegetable dishes, salads, and gourmet sandwiches, pesto recipes add taste and aroma.
The slopes of the famous Italian Riviera’s Liguria region are known for the world’s finest basil plantations. Here pesto is a royal sauce made from fresh basil, olive oil, crushed garlic, pine nuts, and Parmigiana Reggiano or Parmesan. But not all pesto is green, and beetroot, sundried tomato, carrot top, and hemp seed pesto recipes are gaining popularity.
Here are 25 pesto recipes to try out:
1. Homemade Basil and Asiago Pesto Recipe
Pesto is easy to make with freshly harvested basil leaves straight from your veggie patch. A jar of homemade pesto in a refrigerator is the food equivalent of a pot of gold. Whether you’ve bought your pesto supply from a neighborhood market stall or deli, a jar in store can alter the most straightforward meal into a gourmet one.
Getting the taste right depends on the ingredients as much as the quantities. And remember, you can be generous with the asiago, crushed garlic, and olive oil mixture. Pesto is a healthy heart food ingredient that takes the most uncomplicated cuisine to the next level.
This homemade basil and asiago pesto is delicious on oven-fresh home-baked bread. You can garnish freshly grilled porcini mushrooms and linguine pasta or jazz up a butter-lettuce, sugar-snap pea, and asparagus salad.
- Aged asiago is best in pesto recipes and adds a sharp taste.
2. South East Asian Pesto Recipe
An Asian-style variation on the classic Italian pesto gets your taste buds salivating. You can dress up pasta dishes and potatoes with a quick Italian-inspired pesto that uses the traditional Genovese ingredients: extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, salt, Parmigiano Reggiano (or Grana Padano), and Pecorino Sardo. Now add fresh saw-tooth coriander (cilantro) used all over Southeast Asia.
And, true to Cambodian cooking (as far back as the Khmer Empire between 802-1431 CE), a secret ingredient in this exotic pesto recipe is the nuttiness of sesame seeds. Other tastes and flavor options are those of aromatic mint and dill. Sesame seed options are peanuts, cashew, or macadamia nuts.
In addition, flavors are enhanced with lime leaves and chopped lemongrass.
- For a richer (and authentically Asian taste) add thickened cream or coconut cream.
3. Sicilian Pistachio Pesto Recipe
Pesto is easy to make. Some say the pesto from Liguria is the best basil on earth with rich aromas. The classic Genova pesto, the king of green sauces, has a sensational almost sweet taste. And chefs agree each of them make a distinctive pesto based on their basil-to-olive oil ratio, and heaps of finely grated hard cheese.
In Sicily, chefs’ distinctive Sicilian pistachio pesto made from mild-flavored and slightly sweet pistachio nuts rather than the more metallic-tasting pine nuts. Sicilian pistachio pesto is best on handmade pasta and with a glass of Marsala wine for simple perfection. The recipe mimics simple rustic living and the richness of pistachio, basil, olive oil, and cream puree with generous helpings of Parmigiano Reggiano, garlic, and sea salt.
- Chefs use parsley and mint in Sicilian pistachio pesto recipes with parsley as choice to not overpower pistachio’s nuttiness.
4. Mediterranean Lemon Pesto Recipe
Pesto recipes enhance the flavor of a range of dishes. One of the most sensationally delicious tasting ones is that of a Mediterranean lemon pesto served with salmon. Not only is lemon good paired with salmon, but the sour, slightly acidic taste brightens the basil’s look.
You can grow your own basil and quickly prepare this delicate pesto for a salmon dish. Sauté the salmon, generously spoon Mediterranean lemon pesto on top before serving, and garnish the plate with a slice of lemon. The combination of basil and olive oil, garlic, Parmesan, lemon juice, and zest is lip-smacking and tasty.
- Lemon pesto can be made in advance, kept in the refrigerator, and used on poultry.
- Make sure you don’t overdo the garlic – start with one glove and taste before adding more.
5. Nasturtium Garden Pesto Recipe
You can eat nasturtium flowers, the stems and the soft round leaves in salads. But did you know that nasturtiums make delicious pesto? The nasturtium plant, of the cress family, has the pepperiness of watercress.
Planted as a companion plant to ward off insects, nasturtiums are hardy and prolific growers. The exotic taste of nasturtium pesto is an acquired taste, but worth the try. Nasturtiums mix well with basil and walnuts for the freshest and most excitingly pesto.
Just put nasturtium leaves in a food processor with parsley, basil leaves, garlic, and walnuts. You must add in olive oil, a generous amount of Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. Nasturtium pesto is surprisingly easy to make and what’s even more appealing is that almost any veggie patch has nasturtiums.
- Nasturtiums are peppery and parsley also has a sharp taste, therefore it’s good to add in the sweetness of basil.
6. Smashed Carrots With Coriander-Pistachio Pesto Recipe (And Pickled Onions)
Chefs favor friendly sharing menus, and Yotam Ottolenghi is no exception. His coriander-pistachio pesto recipe on smashed carrot pairs well with ground chicken and herb koftas. And you too can impress guests with the nutty taste of coriander-pistachio pesto on smashed carrots served with pickled onions on the side.
Few diners can resist the taste of coriander-pistachio pesto, which some say gives the humble carrot a place of honor. With a few tablespoons of lime juice, olive oil, turmeric, and garlic, with coriander, cumin, and dried chili, you can enjoy this pesto. And, use a pestle and mortar to get in touch with the developing flavors.
The mix of pistachio nuts, fresh coriander, spring onions, garlic, and the finest olive oil pairs well with carrot mash. To add to the taste sensation, serve this pesto dish with lime-infused yogurt.
- To infuse Greek-style yogurt, add a tablespoon of lime juice.
7. Quick Pesto With Sliced Snap Peas Recipe
Short, thin, and twisted pasta is most commonly used for pesto pasta dishes, but all pasta works well. This quick recipe for pesto pasta stands out for its greenery. That includes the pesto and sliced fresh sugar snap peas (a cross between snow and garden peas).
Often this dish is made with anchovy in the pesto. Mostly, chefs add kalamata olives for a salty taste and a vegetarian option. There are many variations on the classic pesto recipes with basil, garlic, Parmesan, pine nuts, and olive oil. Traditionally done with a pestle and mortar, the earliest pesto recipes are archived as those of gastronomist Giovanni Battista Ratto.
In his La Cuciniera Genovese (1863), he describes how garlic and basil are crushed and mixed into a paste and dissolved in olive oil.
- Instead of peas, use fresh asparagus.
- Also, substitute basil with parsley, spinach, or arugula (rocket leaves).
8. Avocado Pesto Recipe
Pesto recipes are made to serve cold and uncooked, and pesto sauces are part of a family of green sauces made from chopped fresh herbs. Various green sauces are found worldwide: salsa verde in Italy and Spain, sauce verte in France, Britain’s mint sauce in Britain, and the delicious Argentinian chimichurri. These vary from the classic pesto recipes but are similar too.
A novel pesto recipe is that of avocado mashed to a silky consistency. Use ripe avos and blend these with basil leaves. Add olive oil, walnuts, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
For many lactose-intolerant diners, avo’s cheese-like texture makes a delicious dairy-free pesto. This avocado pesto recipe is delicious on homemade pasta, a spread on ciabatta, or slices of fresh baguette.
- In the place of walnuts, use nutritionally dense hemp seeds. These are a substitute for cheese, too, in vegan options.
9. Thai Basil Pesto Recipe
Thai basil pesto is often used in noodle dishes, stir-fries, and salads. One of the key ingredients in Thai basil pasta is Vietnamese mint, a favorite Asian herb with strong flavors. The remaining ingredients are also an interesting take on the classic basil pesto.
You blend Thai basil and peanuts in peanut oil and add a sizeable green chili (seeded). The flavors are further enhanced with lime juice, fish sauce, grated fresh ginger, and garlic.
- You can keep Thai basil pesto in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
10. Nut-Free Carrot Top Pesto Recipe
The tops of fresh organic carrots are not for rabbits only. You can make a delicious pesto from these carrot tops. The tap root is the most common edible part, but the stem and leaves are edible.
As pesto, the leaves are bright green, and you can blanch them, dry them, and mix them with olive oil, nuts, and either lemon or lime. Though bitter in taste, and even salty, use the less-stalky bits for carrot top pesto that has been described as having Moroccan-inspired flavors. Combine the carrot tops with fresh mint and chopped green scallions.
The earliest variations on carrot top pesto recipes used toasted almonds. Later, walnuts were used. But carrot top pesto can be made as an utterly nut-free alternative.
- Hemp seeds are a good vegan option for cheese.
11. Aubergine Pesto Recipe
Try this quick and easy eggplant pesto recipe if you are out to impress. The char-grilled aubergine and roasted garlic add a smoky and creamy flavor. The pesto is also commercially available.
So, if you are in a hurry, open a jar of aubergine and garlic paste and transform this into a tasty pesto with cumin seeds, garlic, and lemon juice. Whisk seeds, garlic, and lemon together, and add in a sesame paste (tahini) and as much olive oil as you like. Once made, blend in rich yogurt, salt, and lemon juice to taste.
The best way to serve the aubergine pesto is with flatbreads.
- In a serving bowl, drizzle extra-virgin olive oil, and (for color and taste) add paprika and mint leaves.
12. Pesto Calabrese Recipe
This pesto Calabrese recipe uses grilled bell peppers. Chargrilling the peppers add a smoky taste. And adding in soft ricotta, sun-dried tomatoes, almonds, chili flakes, salt, and black pepper gets the sauce just right.
You can char the peppers on a hot griddle pan or, better still, in a high-heat oven. And remember to turn these for the outer skin to blacken all over. The easiest way to skin and peel charred peppers skin is to leave them in the oven to sweet.
Now you are ready to make the pesto with sautéed onion and garlic, which you add with the skinned peppers in a blender. Then blend in the lemon juice, salt, pepper, flaked almonds, and a pinch of chili flakes. You can add sun-dried tomatoes too.
You must add in the ricotta, Parmesan, and pecorino afterward.
- Garnish the pesto with toasted almonds.
13. Mint And Breadcrumb Pesto
Move closer as Italy’s famous and charismatic chef Massimo Bottura tells you that not even day-old bread escapes his imagination. He uses stale bread in some of the world’s best pesto dishes. Pesto is central to his repertoire.
And, Bottura says, using the day-old bread means that you don’t have to use pine nuts in his mint and breadcrumb pesto. With handfuls of fresh basil and half the amount of mint and parsley leaves, you can use the finely crumbled stale bread to make up a pesto with garlic and extra virgin olive oil. In typical Italian style, Bottura calls for generous amounts of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano as the cheese gives the basil base the richness of flavor.
- Serve the mint and breadcrumb pesto on fresh homemade pasta, ala Bottura-style.
14. Ramson Leaves or Wild Garlic Pesto Recipe
Wild garlic, a bulbous perennial that looks like grass, is a sought-after culinary ingredient for adventurous cooks and chefs. Wild garlic, also known as Ramson leaves, proliferates in gardens. And once spring arrives, these plants flourish and offer exciting options for making pesto.
Whether you serve wild garlic on pasta or as a condiment with roasted potatoes, the choices are vast. The taste of wild garlic pesto blends well with hazelnuts. You are bound to get your guests’ approval.
So all you do is blend the wild garlic with parmesan cheese, add toasted hazelnuts, olive oil and lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. You can use an electric blender and stop when you get the consistency you are after.
- The fun side of making pesto is being part of the aromatic process and doing this the traditional slow way with a pestle and mortar.
15. Korean Perilla Pesto
Across the world, pesto recipes are a vital ingredient to foods. It’s often the chefs’ and cooks’ imaginations that are the ultimate moment with a chef’s kiss – the pinching of fingers and a thumb on the one hand, and kissing these to say the recipe tastes perfect. In Korea, the main ingredient for pesto recipes is the Pernilla leaf or kkaenip leaf, also called a sesame leaf.
But it’s not related to the sesame plant. The leaf is part of the mint family with strong mint overtones and is also related to basil. Pernilla leaf is commonly used to make kimchi (fermented leaves), or whole leaves are used as tasty wraps. Other ingredients in this exotic pesto recipe are toasted pine nuts, garlic, and extra-virgin olive oil, and add in as much salt and pepper as you like.
- Toasting pine nuts brings out their flavor.
16. Rosemary Pesto Recipe
When one thinks of famous culinary inventions, it’s Jamie Oliver’s name that pops up time and time again. Pesto is a good flavor enhancer with many variations to change everyday culinary concoctions into tasty meals. Whether pasta or grilled fish, fowl, and roasted meats or vegetables, a good pesto enhances flavors and gets diners salivating.
Just blend fresh basil, hard Italian cheese, ground almonds, garlic, and rosemary with olive oil. Add in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve this quick-to-make pesto with cannellini beans, green beans, and ripe cherry tomatoes, and garnish the dish with basil leaves.
- To get extra pleasure from preparing the pesto, use a pestle and mortar and do the recipe by hand.
17. Beet Pesto Recipe
Diners might not eat whole beets, but few can resist the sight of beet pesto pasta. There are different colors of beets, from purple to cane-colored and even golden. The deep purple-red pesto transforms a dish into a signature recipe in a flash.
And it’s about the eye-catching color and the simplicity of making the pesto. The richness of the beet pesto lies in its smooth texture, which depends on the quantities of ingredients used. The red beets stand out in pesto recipes used for salads and on pasta.
Some of the best tastes for beet pesto are recipes with puréed beets, garlic, and red wine vinegar. Also, add ground almonds and plenty of olive oil. Beet pesto always looks spectacular.
- Use a food processor blade that minces the almonds and garlic finely.
18. Sundried Tomato Pesto Rosso Recipe
Yes, pesto recipes are easy to make. The sundried tomato pesto Rosso recipe is also one of the easiest. The main ingredient is sundried tomatoes, and therefore the pesto is nicknamed ‘red pesto.’
In Sicily its known as pesto alla siciliana and a variation on classic green basil pesto known as pesto alla Genovese (from Genova) This recipe uses sundried tomatoes steeped in oil (not the dried version), as the oil makes blending these easier. Add extra virgin olive oil, tomato paste, a garlic clove, and fresh basil to see the rich pesto develop.
Red pesto uses less basil, but this herb delicate flavor isn’t left out. You can add pine nuts, but the traditional pesto Rosso recipe is made with roasted almonds, grated Parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano.
- For a twist in taste, add chili flakes to give some bite to this delicious pesto.
19. Peruvian Pesto Recipe
This Peruvian pesto recipe is delicious with meat and potato combos and on pasta. Peruvian pesto is also creamier and even milder in taste than the classic Italian version. And in a typical pesto way, use basil leaves, good olive oil, and garlic.
But for the twist, blend the basil, olive oil, and garlic with spinach leaves, evaporated milk, chopped (and toasted) walnuts, and crumbled feta cheese. Blend into a thick paste, add salt and pepper and allow the pesto to cool.
- Add the oil gradually to the pesto and keep the blender (or food processor) running.
20. Shiso Pesto Recipe
Pesto in Japan is traditionally made with shiso leaves. Like the classic Italian version, the leaves are blended with pine nuts, garlic, hard Italian cheese, and extra virgin olive oil. The exception is that the basil leaves are replaced by the shiso leaves.
You can also use walnuts, cashews, and almonds instead of pine nuts. The aromatic herb is of the mint family. It is also known as perilla leaf and is used for pesto in Korea (see above).
The choice of shiso leaves in Japanese dishes is the herb’s fresh, even citrus flavor. Shiso pesto recipes include basil, arugula (rocket), baby spinach, kale, and parsley if you wish.
- Homemade Shiso Pesto (大葉ジェノベーゼ) freezes well.
21. Lemon-Dill Pesto Recipe
If you thought pesto can only be Italian, take a look at cuisine worldwide. There are many other pesto recipes (as seen above) with different flairs. Think of French chefs’ pistou, the delicious Argentinian chimichurri, and Moroccan chermoula.
One of the many variations on the classic Italian basil pesto is Scandinavians’ use of dill, which can be used as a herb and as a spice. Dill is of the celery family and goes well with fish, a staple in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Use fresh garlic, walnuts, and extra-virgin olive oil for the lemon-dill pesto.
Adding lemon juice gives flavor and keeps the pesto looking bright green. Walnuts replace the traditional choice of pine nuts and have a richer and nuttier flavor. The lemon-dill pesto is also dairy-free.
- Roast walnuts till golden brown for a nutty aroma.
22. Lemon and Herb Pesto Recipe
The pesto adds a taste sensation to any meal. This lemon and herb pesto goes well with lamb, grilled meats, fish, roasted vegetables, and even pasta. The pesto is quick to make with coriander, parsley, and basil.
In addition, you add cumin seeds, chopped garlic, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, and almonds.
- Make enough lemon and herb pesto to store in a jar in the refrigerator.
- Add a layer of olive oil on top, and you can keep lemon and herb pesto for up to three months.
23. Capsicum and Macadamia Pesto Recipe
The best description for the taste of this capsicum and macadamia pesto recipe is vibrant. It’s the Asian inspiration that stands out in the taste. The pesto comprises a blend of roasted capsicums (red peppers), toasted macadamia nuts, chopped coriander leaves, spring onions, freshly chopped ginger, and fresh red chili.
Also added are grated Parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, and lemon juice.
- Serve the capsicum and macadamia pesto with grilled swordfish and coconut rice.
24. African Blue Basil and Lavender Pesto
Sometimes the look and presentation is the winning ingredient. This is the case with African blue basil and lavender pesto. The colors stand out like art.
The essential elements are the same as the classic pesto. Though, here almonds are used instead of pine nuts. You also can toast the almonds for a richer flavor.
The use of fresh African blue basil leaves and flowers definitely has a different look and a strong and camphor-like taste, which gives this pesto a mellow flavor. The taste is supreme when mixed with raw, unsalted almonds, extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, lemon, and Parmesan cheese.
- Use freshly harvested lavender flowers as garnish.
25. Vegan Hemp Seed Pesto Recipe
This is the easiest pesto recipe ever. The vegan pesto version uses fresh basil and hemp seeds. Just mix the basil and seeds, and add in nutritional yeast, olive oil, and as much garlic as you like. And with salt and pepper and quick, smooth blending, you can have this pesto ready in seconds.
- Add more olive oil or water to make the mixture runnier.