Spinach Basil PestoPesto, the beautiful green wonderment of summer cooking loaded with green goodness.  I often hear people stating emphatically how they “hate” pesto and will never eat it again.  To those people my answer is: skip the store-bought stuff and make it at home and you will never again say that you “hate” pesto.  Store bought pesto loses so much of the wonderful light flavors, texture, and colors.  That of it that still has the green color has been so loaded with dyes, preservatives, and chemicals to keep the colors, the flavor changed and forgotten.  And the sad thing is that pesto is so easy to make at home there really is no reason to buy it already made and it is a great way to use up leftover veggies and herbs.

Pesto is also easy make into other flavors just by changing the green ingredient in it to other veggies or herbs such as spinach, parsley, mint, arugula, cilantro, or even different kinds of basil such as lemon and thai.  You just have to use your imagination to make and create an unlimited amount of pesto and dishes using pesto.  Food & Wine, one of my favorite go to cooking and drinking magazines and websites is featuring an article on the different ways to make and use pesto, many of them beyond the classic way such as a sun-dried tomato pesto.

Here are tips and tricks to use in for all four of my favorite pesto recipes. Always hold the salt until you have mixed all the other ingredients and tasted because cheese is salty and in many cases left out. By adding lemon juice, you will keep the green colors of the herbs and veggies. For more preserving of the coloring, place in a bowl and cover with a thin layer of olive oil to prevent air from turning the color brown.  Toasted almonds can be substituted for pine nuts.  Freeze extra pesto in ice-cube trays to use at a later date. For a creamy pesto sauce on pasta like that used in restaurants, combine the pesto with saved pasta water. Always use the freshest ingredients for the best flavors. Below are four of my favorite pesto recipes and tips for using them to create wonderful dishes.

The Classic Basil Pesto Recipe

3 cups of fresh packed basil leaves

2 to 3 cloves of garlic, depending on taste levels

3/4 cup of fresh grated Parmesan cheese (fresh is a must because the flavor changes)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Sea salt to taste

Few squeezes of fresh lemon juice from 1/2 lemon

Combine all ingredients, except salt,  in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth.

Spinach Basil Pesto

1 1/2 cups of fresh packed baby spinach leaves

3/4 cup of fresh packed basil leaves

2 to 3 cloves of garlic, depending on taste levels

1/2 cup of fresh grated Parmesan cheese (fresh is a must because the flavor changes)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

Sea salt to taste

1/2 tsp. fresh grated lemon zest

Few squeezes of fresh lemon juice from  lemon

Combine all ingredients, except salt,  in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth.

Mint Pesto

3/4 cup of fresh packed mint leaves

1/4 cup of fresh parsley leaves

2 cloves of garlic, depending on taste levels

1/2 tsp. fresh grated lemon zest

1/8 cup shallots

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Few squeezes of fresh lemon juice from 1/2 lemon

Combine all ingredients, except salt,  in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth.

Mexican Pesto

2 cups of fresh packed cilantro leaves

2 to 3 cloves of garlic, depending on taste levels

2 to 3 Serrano chilies, depending on taste levels

1/4 cup of fresh grated Cotija cheese (Parmesan is a good substitute if cannot find the cotija)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1/4 cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

Sea salt to taste

Few squeezes of fresh lemon juice from 1/2 lemon

Combine all ingredients, except salt,  in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth.

For these recipes add salt to taste if needed and allow the ingredients to meld at room temperature for a couple of hours for the best flavor profile before serving.  Use my simple four pesto recipes to create sophisticated goodness in your dishes of pastas, meats, veggies, dips and spreads.

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