Summer pesto with a twist

Priya Hutner

When it comes to pesto, most people think of the fresh basil and garlic blended with olive oil, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese served on large bowl of steaming pasta. Pesto, an Italian sauce that originated in Genoa, Italy, is one of the most versatile of sauces and can be made a number of different ways with different vegetables and herbs.

Do you have an abundance of herbs? Cilantro pesto is fabulous and made similar to a basil pesto, but with a few twists: cilantro, olive oil, walnuts and Parmesan cheese. If dairy isn’t part of your diet substitute the Parmesan with nutritional yeast. It will give the pesto a bit of a cheesy flavor. This pesto is great with vegetable tacos and excellent with grilled vegetables.

With the plethora of vegetables in season at the local farmer’ markets, the sky is the limit when creating pesto sauces.

I prepare my veggie tortilla recipe with grilled onions, zucchini, asparagus, Portobello mushrooms and red peppers. After grilling the vegetables, set them aside. In the meantime, heat tortillas in a pan. I use organic corn tortillas. Melt your favorite cheese on the tortillas — sharp cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese are my go-to cheeses for veggie tacos — layer the cilantro pesto and add the grilled vegetables. This dish is easy to prepare and a great summer meal.

Making pesto with arugula is another favorite type of pesto I enjoy making. As with basil pesto, I toss this pesto into a bowl of penne pasta with Kalamata olives, shaved Parmesan-Reggiano cheese and sautéed arugula greens. This dish can be served hot or cold and makes a great side for a barbeque potluck.

Tahoe Weekly Editor Katherine Hill loves pesto. She recently bought carrots, celery and greens at the farmers’ market but couldn’t eat them fast enough. She made pesto with the greens from the carrots and celery, added a little basil, lots of garlic, pecans, olive oil and Parmesan cheese with a dash of lime. She served this on Kalamata olive bread also purchased at the farmers’ market.

Using different nuts and seeds are a way to experiment with pesto sauces. Sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds are all interesting variations to explore. Consider this summer-time pesto using kale, basil, pumpkin seeds, olive oil, garlic and Parmesan cheese pesto.

Garlic scapes were included in my Community Supported Agriculture box and I plan to make a pesto with them. Scapes are the stalk that grows from the garlic; they tend to be milder than the cloves themselves.

Using local, seasonal herbs, greens and nuts is another way to play with pesto. Think leftovers. Tossing pesto in last night’s chicken and rice is a delicious, easy and jazzy use of leftovers.

Other variations to consider: golden beet pesto, carrot pesto, tomato pesto or pea shoot pesto. Herbs, such as mint and parsley, in pesto add unique flavors to the mix.

With the plethora of vegetables in season at the local farmer’ markets, the sky is the limit when creating pesto sauces. If you make it in large batches, most types of pesto freeze well.

Do you have a favorite summer pesto recipe? Share it with us at or @TheTahoeWeekly

Priya Hutner
Priya Hutner is a writer, personal chef and meditation teacher. She writes feature articles about music, art, food and recreation. Priya loves to immerse in story. Whether jumping from a plane, eating obscure foods or hitting the Tahoe-Reno music scene, she is always up for adventure and experience. Having moved to the mountains from Sebastian, Fla., she embraces the Tahoe lifestyle and loves to ski, hike, paddle and swim. Priya is the owner of the Seasoned Sage, a business that prepares organic meals and facilitates workshops that promote a health-conscious lifestyle. She is currently writing a memoir about her experience living on an ashram and working on a series of cookbooks. |