Pesto? Big yawn, so over, so ’80s, right? Don’t be so fast to rush to judgement, my friends; a sauce that originated in Liguria in the 16th century remains a classic that will never fall out of favor. Besides, what else can gardeners do with all that basil and parsley now flourishing in the garden, but under threat of frost in the not-so-distant future?

True pesto’s name is derived from “pestle,” as in mortar and pestle, the traditional device used to make the sauce. The ingredients of pesto alla Genovese — basil, salt, garlic, pine nuts (or walnuts), Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano and extra virgin olive oil — are ground in the mortar by pressing and pounding with a pestle, a stick with a rounded base for mashing. Italians generally use only the youngest, most delicate basil leaves for the green sauce and possibly would turn up their noses at some of the suggestions that follow, but because pesto is a generic term for anything that is made by pounding, we can feel good about utilizing whatever is available in the garden right now. As for all that pounding? Most of us will, in the interest of convenience and expediency, use a food processor to prepare our pestos.

Have I mentioned that pesto is not ordinarily one of my favorite sauces? I like to have some on hand to toss into a red tomato sauce or vegetable soups, but it’s usually too much of an in-your-face blast of garlic for me. Even the stronger, spicier basil generally available is pretty assertive, so I tend to make a milder, sweeter sauce. Again, I’ll use whatever I have in greater quantity, which this year is parsley and chives.

If you have a lot of basil waiting to be harvested, you may want to make a simple, classic pesto.

C L A S S I C   P E S T O

4 cups fresh basil leaves
12 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts
2 garlic cloves
14 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Combine first four ingredients in food processor and pulse until paste forms, stopping to push down basil. Add cheese and salt; blend until smooth.



If basil is in short supply and parsley prevails in the herb garden, try parsley/chive pesto.

P A R S L E Y / C H I V E   P E S T O

12 cup unsalted, roasted almonds
4 cups flat-leaf parsley, chopped
34 cup chopped chives
pinch coarse sea salt
12 cup olive oil
13 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Pulse almonds in food processor until smooth. Add parsley, chives, salt, oil, and Parmesan; process until smooth.

If you have an abundance of cherry tomatoes, make this spicy sauce.

S I C I L I A N - S T Y L E   P E S T O

2 cups cherry tomatoes
13 cup toasted almonds
3 cloves garlic
14 cup chopped basil leaves
pinch crushed red pepper
14 cup freshly grated Parmesan
3 Tbsp. olive oil
sea salt and pepper
In a food processor, combine tomatoes, almonds, garlic, basil, red pepper, cheese, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Pulse a few times; then, with the motor running, add oil in a thin stream.

If you are making a larger quantity of pesto, you can store it in the refrigerator. Make your pesto and then fill a jar almost to the top. Drizzle a little olive oil over the paste and seal closed to keep pesto green. This can keep for up to three weeks in the refrigerator if you continue to cover the top with olive oil to keep the herbs fresh. If you want to freeze your pesto, line a small cookie sheet with wax paper. Spread freshly made pesto on paper evenly, about 14 inch thick. Press a second piece of wax paper onto the pesto and freeze several hours, or until firm, then place the pesto sheet in a zip-top freezer bag. When you need a bit of pesto, take out the bag and break off as much or as little as needed.