When someone mentions “pesto,” you probably think about basil. It’s become synonymous with a traditional pesto alla genovese, a beautiful basil sauce originating from Genoa used on pizzas, pastas, in soups, and as part of many delectable appetizers. But “pesto” is actually the shortened form of the word “pestato,” meaning to pound or crush, referring to the crushing of garlic and herbs. It’s Latin root is “pestle.” So, you can make all kinds of pestos–mint pesto, nettle pesto, parsley pesto, and more. I love working with it in the spring and summer when you can pull greens fresh from the garden and whip up a sauce in a minute, no cooking necessary.
Traditional basil pesto is tough to beat, but I do like to play around with the herbs in our garden and work with what’s fresh. Here’s a springtime version heavy on what’s growing in our garden now–fresh parsley and arugula, with hints of mint. We love the complexity of flavors in this sauce–the freshness of the parsley and mint combined with the spiciness of the arugula and garlic. I also really appreciate the richness of roasted walnuts here.
- 2 medium garlic cloves (I actually used 1 medium and two small cloves, so go with your best guess here)
- 1 cup fresh parsley, packed tightly (equivalent to nearly an entire standard bunch of store-bought parsley)
- 2 cups arugula, packed
- 3 big sprigs mint, de-stemmed, leaves only
- 1 cup walnuts, roasted
- 1/2 cup good olive oil (tasting variety; not bitter)
- Sea salt (such as flake sea salt)
- Freshly ground black pepper
Roast walnuts at 450-degrees until crisp and dark brown in places.
In a mixer (I used a Cuisinart), add garlic and pulse until chopped. Add all other ingredients at once, layering parsley first, then arugula and mint, then roasted walnuts. Sprinkle with a good pinch of flake sea salt and a few grounds of black pepper. Pour in your good olive oil.
Blend on a low setting or pulse until smooth, stopping to stir occasionally if necessary. Add more salt or pepper to taste. Use on pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, potatoes, soups, simple toasts, or our favorite–Italian Farinata with Baby Radishes, Early Potatoes, and Fresh Mozzarella.