The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


June 12, 2013

Amanda Stone: New tricks pack even more flavor into pesto

JOPLIN, Mo. — I've praised pesto in the past, but I've discovered some new tricks. I've broadened my pesto horizons and yearn to share my newfound knowledge.

Sure, traditional pesto is amazing. Basil, garlic, olive oil and pine nuts smashed together with aged stinky cheese -- magic happens when these simple ingredients come together. I was proud of myself when I discovered I could use half broccoli puree and half pesto and no one was the wiser. Pesto is so packed with flavor that it's easy to sneak other veggies into it, but I've taken it a step further.

Pesto can be made with all kinds of green veggies. Yes, basil is standard, but you can use just about any other leafy green, or not-so-leafy green, to pack a super-food punch. Experiment. I usually use walnuts or almonds instead of pine nuts just because I never have pine nuts on hand. As it turns out, you can puree all kinds of things with garlic, olive oil and cheese and get amazing results.

Pesto anxiety hit me a few weeks ago when I saw that last summer's frozen supply was dwindling. My basil seedlings are barely out of the ground, so I decided to do some research. Lo and behold, I found that pesto has plenty of potential. It is terribly forgiving. I couldn't be more pleased.

I'm happy to use the radish, turnip and beet greens from my garden in salads or stir fries. But they can also be made into pesto for pasta, dips or pizza. No need to toss those carrot tops; puree them into pesto. Use the mint that's taking over your herb garden to make a cool, refreshing pesto dip for veggies. Broccoli, spinach and an array of leafy greens and herbs are abundant at farmers markets right now. Vitamin-packed pesto!

Basil doesn't have to steal the show with pesto. Other herbs can have a turn, too. I have oregano growing like crazy, so I lopped it off and made pesto. I threw in sage and cilantro, too. Why not? Use what you have. The pesto will forgive, and your taste buds will be pleased. The flavors will meld with the garlic and Parmesan and make something beautiful, or at least pleasantly edible.

Substitute the leafy greens of your choice in the following pesto recipes, and please let me know if you come up with something extra amazing.


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