The Herb Pesto That Almost Was

June 11, 2007

Here’s why I’m not Martha Stewart. This weekend, I trimmed back a bunch of overgrown herbs and had them in a big bowl of water waiting to be cleaned—basil, thyme, marjoram, mint. You name it, it was in there. So I thought, “won’t this make a lovely herb pesto?” Herbs2a

I envisioned myself plucking off the leaves, pounding them by hand in our mortar and pestle and reveling in the earthen, resiny scent. I’d throw in a handful of pine nuts or walnuts or maybe even almonds, drizzling in some of the last of our really good olive oil from Tuscany and tossing it all with whole wheat spaghetti. I was picturing my entry up here, to you all, talking about what a perfect end to a weekend in the garden it had been. “Maybe I’ll even start a weekly ‘Sunday Night Garden Meal entry,” I thought. And if I were Martha Stewart, maybe I would have succeeded.

But I was exhausted. I’d worked—hard—on our garden and our house (we’re picking Noe up in a week!) for eight hours straight both Saturday and Sunday and my entire body ached. So we went out for sushi on Saturday and had leftovers from recipe testing last night, and I finally just tossed the slightly grungy mass of sodden herbs in the trash just now. Ugh. Life is good, and I am human.

Here’s the recipe that I was going to make. If you have a mortar and pestle, all the better. If not, a blender or food processor will do. Enjoy!

{ Herb Pesto }

4 cups fresh herbs (use mostly leafy herbs like basil, mint and marjoram . . . go easy on woodsy ones like thyme and rosemary)
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons pine nuts, walnuts or almonds
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

If using a mortar and pestle, pound together herbs and garlic with the salt until it becomes a thick paste. Add nuts and pound until incorporated. Switch to a whisk and whisk in olive oil, cheese, lemon juice and pepper.
If using a food processor, add all ingredients to the bowl and pulse until smooth. Combine all ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth. 
Makes 3/4 cup

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9 Responses to “The Herb Pesto That Almost Was”

  1. barbara Says:

    Just popping by to say hi and good luck with Noe. I was staying with friends in Switzerland once and made pesto for them. They didn’t have a blender or mortar and pestle so I chopped everything with a knife. It was the best pesto ever.

  2. lia Says:

    Hi Barbara. Thanks for the encouragement! I’ll be posting from Guatemala, so stop by again for an update . . . out of curiosity, what kind of herbs did you use in that pesto?


  3. Josie Says:

    i love pesto! and i have definitely lost motivation after a long day of work, so i can relate 🙂
    how does your recipe keep, if frozen?

    Good Luck with Noe – I cannot wait to hear about your trip to pick her up.

  4. lia Says:

    Hi Josie! The pesto keeps great frozen (which I love . . . there’s nothing like scooping out a glob of pesto in the middle of winter and smelling summer herbs as it oozes over pasta). A lot of people recommend freezing it in ice cube trays and then transferring the cubes to a ziploc freezer bag, which sounds like a great idea. I’m never that organized (and I didn’t have ice cube trays until last week, when I bought them for the butternut squash I froze for Noe), so I just freeze my batches in plastic containers and then scoop it out as needed.

    Thanks for your encouragement with Noe! I’ll look forward to posting from Guatemala, so stay tuned!


  5. barbara Says:

    Lia – I only ever use basil in my pesto.

  6. lia Says:

    I hear you Barbara . . . basil’s hard to beat.

  7. Judy Says:

    Lia, it’s wonderful to read about summer whilst sitting here in our Australian winter. I can almost smell the basil!

    Have a fantastic trip to collect Noe – it will be the best thing you have ever, ever done in your whole life, and of course this trip will be special because of the reason you’re going! She will fill your hearts with love.

    Best wishes to you all.

  8. Kris Says:

    Question for you. Sometimes I have eaten pesto in restuarants that is sooo green and the basil doesn’t turn dark. How do they do that?

  9. lia Says:

    Blanch and chill. 🙂 Blanch the basil in boiling water for just a few seconds, then chill it immediately in an ice bath and strain before adding it to the blender. RQ baby, restaurant quality!

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