So fresh and so green, green. Learn how to make your very own pesto at home – all it takes is five minutes. Greens, nuts, and cheese are ground into a paste, and then thinned out with a little olive oil. We’ll also go over how to store and freeze pesto for later. Arugula pesto, my favorite version, is fresh, vibrant, and has just a little peppery bite that I love.
There are many different ways to enjoy this simple sauce. Toss it with pasta, spread over sandwiches, mix into eggs, dollop over red potatoes, or spoon it straight onto toast with prosciutto and goat cheese…and now DANGIT I WANT SOME. A recipe with no actual cooking involved, for the win.
I definitely remember the first time I had pesto. Initial reaction was: what the heck is this green stuff on my pasta? It was during my high school senior class trip, and on our last night in New York we got to dine at Tavern on the Green in Central Park. I ordered what I thought was a regular pasta dish, and indeed it was – it was just covered in green. I soon had my entire table of fellow teenagers roaring with laughter at my faces of disgust as I tried to eat it. (I was quite the picky eater before college.) Green stuff? Ick!
Oh how far I have come. I’m glad I gave pesto a second chance. Fast forward to post-college days, when my roommates and I would go through bulk jars of pesto from Costco. I have now become even wiser – yes, it’s possible – and have moved onto making my own pesto most of the time. I still buy pesto at the store for convenience sometimes, but honestly I’m never happy with that decision once it comes down to taste.
So, why make your own pesto?
- flavor – this one surpasses all others!
- it only takes 5 minutes, seriously
- to use up leftover herbs/plants from the garden
- it’s easy to adjust to personal taste
- make it Whole30 and Paleo-friendly simply by omitting the Parmesan (and it still tastes great). And, flavor.
Standard pesto is made with a whole bunch of basil and pine nuts, and that version is indeed awesome. The mostest awesomest though, in my ranking, is actually arugula pesto, as laid out in the recipe below. Arugula adds a zesty kick to pesto that I absolutely can’t get enough of.
However, if you prefer a milder pesto, or have basil in the garden, feel free to directly substitute basil for the arugula in this recipe. Both versions are wonderful in their own different flavor. Or use some spinach, for that matter – you simply need two cups of packed greens, whether one kind or another or mixed.
Fresh arugula – or rocket, as I learned in England – is starting to appear with the arrival of spring in DC. Yeah, rocket sounds way cooler, perhaps I’ll start calling it that. And you can use different nuts as well – I find walnuts to be the least expensive, and that their earthiness balances the arugula nicely. Give the ingredients a whirl and your pesto is ready. You apparently should use a mortar and pestle. But know thyself. I, for one, wouldn’t make my own pesto if I have to grind it every time.
Storing and freezing
Storing: Store the pesto in the smallest container possible, pressing it into the jar to eliminate air pockets. You can add a little dollop of olive oil on top to keep it greener, then cover with a lid and refrigerate for a week. Or you can freeze it (what I most often do).
Freezing: I learned a quick and easy way to freeze pesto from my kitchen bible, TheKitchn.com. Pesto can be frozen for several months, great for using up leftover basil or herbs or arugula.
Line a half baking sheet with wax paper, then dump the fresh pesto onto the baking sheet. Spread with a spatula until it’s about 1/4-inch thick. Place another piece of wax paper on top and transfer to the freezer for a couple hours. DO NOT forget the pesto at this point! Cough, speaking from experience, cough.
Once the pesto is frozen you can transfer it to a freezer bag to store. Break off as much as you need whenever you need it. Enjoy over anything and everything, for something extra delicious and extra good for you.
- 2 cups fresh arugula leaves, packed
- ½ cup walnuts
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup mild extra virgin olive oil
- Add the arugula, walnuts, Parmesan, garlic, lemon juice, and salt to a food processor and blend. Pulse while drizzling the olive oil into the food processor. Taste and adjust ingredients to your preference. Yields approximately one cup.
- Another option is to use a mortar and pestle to grind the ingredients.
- See post for storing and freezing instructions!