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Playing with Pesto

Playing with Pesto

Words Amalia Safran

This might come as a surprise, but the basics of pesto math are pretty simple.

There’s no rule about always using basil, parmesan cheese, or even pine nuts for that matter. It’s a fairly simple equation: Greens + Nuts + Cheese + Garlic + Oil + Citrus. When done right, this equals greatness, and when tossed with pasta, dolloped on pizza or spread on chicken, it can take a dish to another level. We say always keep the garlic, oil (we prefer olive, but you can sub in a neutral oil if you’d like a milder flavor) and citrus, but the greens, nuts and cheese are variables that can change when whipping up pesto.


OXO One Stop Chop Manual Food Processor homemade pesto


Move aside basil, we’re using other herbs or even leafy greens in our pestos. Your choice of greens will have the greatest effect on your finished sauce, but don’t be too worried, almost any greens work here and combining a few isn’t a bad idea (we actually encourage it!).


  • Parsley – while still bright, it can be a milder flavor and lets the nuts and cheese really shine
  • Cilantro – assuming you don’t have the gene that makes cilantro taste like soap, it makes a fresh-tasting sauce  – add a pepper with a kick to lean into the Mexican flavor profile
  • Arugula – makes a more pungent, peppery paste
  • Broccoli Rabe – a bit more bold and bitter in flavor
  • Carrot Tops/Greens – don’t toss ‘em, use them for a light carrot-flavored sauce
  • Garlic Scapes – very, very garlicky and pungent, packs tons of flavor in a small bite
  • Kale – heartier, a hint of bitterness to it.


OXO One Stop Chop Manual Food Processor homemade pesto


Don’t get us wrong, we love a classic pesto with pine nuts, but we sometimes it’s nice to branch out and experiment with other types of nuts. Just remember to toast any nut lightly to ensure that the full nutty flavor comes through.


  • Almonds – adds a slight buttery taste and gives it an added crunch
  • Walnuts – makes for an earthy addition to the sauce
  • Pecans – slight sweetness comes through
  • or even seeds like pumpkin or sunflower – earthy and light (pumpkin seeds pair nicely with cilantro pesto)



Technically, the cheese can be left out if you want to make a dairy-free pesto. If you’re going full dairy, parm isn’t the only option out there. Any hard cheese that is aged and salty will do wonders in pesto.


  • Manchego – gives a a nutty, tanginess to the pesto
  • Gouda – adds some creaminess and sweetness
  • Asiago – brings some sharp, creaminess
  • or parm’s cousin, Pecorino Romano – a salty, sharp addition


OXO One Stop Chop Manual Food Processor homemade pesto

To make pesto at home, follow this recipe, though pesto is pretty forgiving if you fudge some of the measurements.


Recipe adapted from Love and Lemons

For 1 cup of pesto, you will need:

2 big handfuls of greens

¼ cup of nuts

Juice of 1 lemon

1 garlic clove

¼-½ cup olive oil

Salt & Pepper to taste


When you’ve picked your variables, add all ingredients, except for the oil, to a food processor. Drizzle in the olive oil as you’re processing. Use more oil if you like your pesto more runny.

By Amalia Safran

Amalia Safran is part of OXO's Brand Communications team. She enjoys anything outdoors, exploring new cities and has yet to meet a food she doesn’t like.

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