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Cool Weather Pesto

September 28, 2013

When you say pesto, most people think of basil pesto, a wonderful summertime treat. But did you know pesto can be made with more than basil? “Pesto” is an Italian word meaning “to pound, to crush”, referring to the method of preparation, not specific ingredients.


Make use of all of those cold hardy greens by turning them into pesto
Photo Credit: Charity Baumann

With the chill of fall in the air basil plants are likely slowing down, but this is prime growing weather for your hardy greens like kale and collards. While it has a different flavor, pesto can be made with these greens instead of the traditional basil. You can use your favorite pesto recipe, just substitute the basil for kale or another green!

The greens can be used raw, but if you want you may add a step to soften them: before blending, cook the greens in boiling water until the leaves are just wilted, 30-60 seconds, then remove from the heat and rinse under cold water. You can even use kale stems in pesto, they just need to be boiled longer, about 20 minutes or until tender.
Dark greens are packed with vitamins and minerals with lots of health benefits, so this pesto is also a delicious way to add some nutrients to many dishes or snacks- use as a sandwich spread or pasta sauce, a dip for crackers or veggies, or add a dollop to salads or eggs. Be creative, and enjoy!


• 2 cups packed fresh leaves, herbs or greens

• 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided (basil, parsley, chard, kale, or any combo will work)

• salt and black pepper, to taste

• 2 cloves garlic

• 1/2 cup grated Pecorino chees

• 1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts

• optional: 2 T lemon juice

If using greens, boil water and cook the leaves until they are just wilted, 30-60 seconds. Remove from heat, rinse under cold water. If using herbs, use them fresh.

Combine the leaves, garlic, and nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl and mix in the cheese.

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