Green. Vibrant. Alive.
It’s like the distilled essence of spring, and i can’t imagine anyone tasting this on even the coldest, darkest day of the year and not being instantly transported to a warm, breezy, sunny spring day.
30g | 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh italian parsley, chopped (leaves and tender stems only)
40g | a little over 1 cup loosely packed fresh watercress, chopped (leaves)
12g | 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil, chopped (leaves)
6g | 2 Tbsp+1 tsp loosely packed fresh oregano, chopped (leaves)
4g | 1 1/2 Tbsp loosely packed fresh thyme (leaves)
2g | 2 1/4 tsp loosely packed fresh sage, chopped (leaves)
8g | 2 1/2 Tbsp fresh chives, chopped
2g | 1 1/2 tsp fresh mint, chopped
3g | 1 heaping tsp fresh garlic, chopped
1.5g | 3/4 tsp fresh lemon zest
15g/ml | 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
670g/710ml | 3/4c extra virgin olive oil
2g | 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
36g | heaping 1/4 cup raw pistachios, chopped
10g | 3 1/2 tsp capers
Blend together olive oil, salt, yeast, capers, garlic, zest and lemon juice until finely chopped
Add remaining, and pulse in blender until finely chopped
Will keep in the fridge for about 3-5 days before losing colour and flavour, or frozen for at least 3 months
to use as a base for a wonderfully fresh salad dressing: whisk together 1/3 cup pesto, 1/4 extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup (light) vinegar of choice, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 1/4-1/2 tsp salt, and 1/3 cup water
This takes a lot of different fresh herbs, which, if you don’t have your own herb garden (or it’s down season) might be quite expensive. Shop around though, some grocers sell unpackaged bunches of fresh herbs much much cheaper than those tiny little plastic packages, and if it’s farmer’s market season, that’s an even better bet at getting some good deals. I have a local chain store that sells unpackaged herbs for 1.50/bunch, but they’re nowhere near the packaged ones, so check around or ask.
As for the watercress, it is definitely the best option here, BUT you can always substitute spinach or arugula and still end up with a fantastic pesto, just with different notes. Spinach will give you a richer pesto with less zing, arugula will also be richer, and also more heady and peppery. This recipe is early spring, full of green promise and gentle rain, arugula would be late spring with hints of summer heat to come, spinach would be early summer with hot days tempered with cool nights.
Watercress and parsley form the base here, bringing intense green notes and pepperiness (is that even a word?), basil bringing in sweetness and some richness to temper that brightness a little. Sage, oregano, and thyme bring herbal, woodsy and earthy notes to the game, helping to ground the blend and keeping it from being too ethereal, while the mint adds an airy coolness to give that early spring feeling. Capers and nutritional yeast help to lend a savory umami quality without creating added weight to the flavor, allowing everything else to sing, and while you COULD use cheese in this, i would definitely not recommend it here. This should be light and breezy, elegant and simple, the complex notes and body a cheese would add wouldn’t lend any good qualities to this pesto and would only serve to muddy the mix.
Raw pistachios may be a curve ball here, they’re not always on people’s radar, but trust me….you want them. If you’ve never had them, the flavor and texture is hard to describe and there really isn’t anything that will come close to replicating that. They’re buttery and rich, with a delicious almost piney note at the end, and they really enhance everything this recipe is about. If you absolutely need to sub them for something else, i’d suggest raw pine nuts, raw cashews, or possibly raw english walnuts. No toasted nuts here, that flavor belongs in other dishes.
Of course i recommend using it for some creamy cavatappi w/ watercress+herb pesto, but all the traditional pesto uses apply here, pastas (add after you remove from the heat to avoid losing the freshness), dipping oils, sandwich spreads, and salad dressing. Just avoid cooking this one, or subjecting it to excessive heat, on the flip side, this pesto freezes beautifully, so don’t be afraid to make a much larger batch and save some for later (it should keep at least 3 months in the freezer.)
When freezing (as is the case with any high fat/oil item) make sure to keep it well sealed, fatty foods will quickly absorb odors and flavors circulating in the freezer, i’ve had the best results with keeping frozen cubes of pestos in mason jars sealed with silicone rings, and decent results with ones sealed in two freezer storage bags.