Quick, Cheap, and Fresh: Parsley Pesto
No, I’m not describing myself in the title.
I think it’s easy to get into a dinner rut. Work and life get busy and you find yourself reaching for what you know at the grocery store because you just want to get in and out of there as quickly as possible. It’s been a few too many nights of tacos, quesadillas, and chicken+rice+vegetable dinners at my house lately and I finally decided to throw something new but still fast and easy into the mix.
I had never made my own pesto at home because growing basil at my apartment hasn’t worked out so well (a combination of a cat who eats all my indoor plants and a lack of sun on the back deck) and it seemed a little cost prohibitive to buy the amount I’d need to make enough pesto. Enter flat leaf parsley. A big bunch of it cost $0.99 at Stop and Shop the other day. Throw it together in a food processor with some pine nuts, parmesan cheese, oil, and garlic and you’re off to the races. Don’t expect a recipe to follow. It’s so simple that I think more of a list of tips is in order.
Make sure to rinse and dry your parsley really well. I found a lot of grit in my bunch that would have made for not-so-nice of a dinner. If I had a salad spinner it would come in handy. I don’t so I resorted to some paper towels spread out on the counter. I chopped it slightly (three or four times) and used about half the stems.
If you don’t have a big food processor, you can use a small one, a blender, or even an old fashioned mortar and pestle to make smaller batches. A small food processor like this one is only $35 and comes in handy if you like to make dips and salsas often.
Toss the parsley into the food processor with a handful on pine nuts (I got a decent size bag at Trader Joes for $7.99 which will last through several more batches of pesto. Keep it in the freezer to make them last longer!), a handful of shredded parmesan cheese, and 2-4 cloves of garlice depending on their size and your preference.
Pulse it until you get a consistency similar to the picture above. Take a taste and add more of any ingredient if you think it it needs it. I promise, you’re not going to screw it up.
Next, slowly drizzle in olive oil while the blade is running until you get the pesto consistency you like. You may have to scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times. Remember, tasting is key and this is your pesto. Add in some pepper, a squeeze of lemon, or some crushed red pepper to suit your taste.
I spread some on toasted ciabatta for an appetizer and then tossed it with spaghetti, peas, and a little more cheese for dinner. So quick and easy!
This batch yielded about 6oz. If you’re storing it, put it into an airtight container and cover with a layer of olive oil on top so it doesn’t turn brown in the fridge.
Once you get the basics down, play around with different herbs, nuts, and add-ins. Parsley makes for a great, inexpensive base and you can add mint, tarragon, or basil for flavor without the same pricetag. I want to throw in some sun-dried tomatoes next time and there are a lot of pesto recipes out there that involve walnuts instead of pine nuts.
What about you guys? Have you made pesto before? Any new recipes that have helped you get out of the weeknight dinner rut?