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Jan 2, 2011 10:48 AM

variations of pesto?

Having just gone through the pistou v. pesto debate -- I had a grilled fish with pesto today in a restaurant in Chalon-sur-Saone and the pesto was fabulous. It was quite different from what I make - I tasted less garlic. It seemed like the pure essence of basil and olive oil. I make the standard garlic, pine nuts, basil and olive oil. I'm wondering if there is a variation with no garlic? no pine nuts? I'm sure there are many variations and I would like to try a few more when I get home to basil country. Any suggestions or ideas greatly appreciated.

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    1. Nut pestos; especially walnut pesto which I have served both savory or sweet.
      Sage pesto was a huge surprise and wonderful rubbed on pork tenderloin.
      Apple pesto! Talk about a head turner..the sweetness really adds something

      1. Greens such as arugula or spinach
        Fresh mint makes a wonderful pesto
        Toasted walnuts, pecans, almonds instead of pine nuts
        Red pesto with sundried tomatoes
        Romano or Asiago

        1 Reply
        1. re: chefathome

          i was going to suggest ALL these variations! beat me to it! haha

        2. I have made pesto with coriander (cilantro) subsituted for basil, and with other nuts substituted for pine nuts - hazelnuts are nice.

          5 Replies
          1. re: alexthepink

            We often use a combination of spinach and basil...This produces a more subdued but still delicious flavor and "stretches" the pesto so you get a better yield if you're serving a lot of guests. Interesting that you mention the absent garlic in your recent pesto. I often think folks overdo the garlic in pesto and mask the herb (whatever you choose), which is really the key ingredient, IMHO.

            1. re: curej

              i most often leave out the garlic. raw garlic is usually just too acrid for me, even in small amounts.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                Have you ever tried sub'ing fresh minced shallots for the raw garlic? I've also tried the whites of fresh scallions and diced leeks instead of the garlic.

                1. re: HillJ

                  not so crazy about raw anything from the lily family, honestly. i'm happy with basil, loads of lemon and either almonds or pine nuts. sometimes cheese, not always.

                  i do make some of the other variations on already posted here and am quite keen on mint and cilantro version. this stuff also freezes very well, so i portion out the batch and keep it in a ziploc all winter!

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    Ah, gotcha! Well, basil-loads of lemon-with or without nuts and most certainly cheese sounds yummy to me! Especially on thin whole wheat spaghetti.

          2. There are several sources of variations:

            - other regions of Italy (and France). The best known pesto is a specialty of Genoa. I've seen references to a Sicilian version that is quite different.

            - '70s variations, when the 'back to earth' people sought to use less expensive ingredients, such as walnuts and sunflower seeds, and other greens like cilantro

            - modern innovations by chefs trying to add novelty to their dishes.