Play on Pesto

Variations on a classic condiment
pesto garlic oil cheese
© Can Stock Photo / Dusan

Are you a self proclaimed pesto lover? Are you tired of spending a pretty penny on a small container of shelf-stable pesto? If you haven’t made pesto before, fear not! It couldn’t be simpler to prepare.

Pesto is an amazingly nutritious and versatile way to elevate any dish you make. Traditionally pesto is made up of a few different ingredients: basil, pine nuts, oil, garlic, salt, and Parmesan cheese. It is a staple that will help you out in the kitchen time and time again and it's ideal for quick and simple meals, with many uses!

  • Use as a marinade
  • Butterfly chicken breast and fill with pesto
  • Make pesto pasta 
  • Use as a base in pizza/flatbread dishes 
  • Pesto-stuffed mushrooms

Fresh pesto will keep up to a week in the refrigerator, after which it can be stored in the freezer. Freeze in ice cube trays to create easy portions!


  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 4 large garlic cloves, or to taste 
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 2 cups basil
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese (optional for those who may be dairy intolerant) 
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 c extra virgin olive oil

Basil substitutions

When leafy greens are flourishing or you just want to switch it up, take the opportunity to make variations of this classic recipe. Regardless of what ingredients you choose to use, play around with what’s in season and have fun with it!

  • arugula
  • spinach
  • broccoli (blanch first)
  • cilantro
  • parsley
  • lemon balm
  • garlic scapes
  • kale (any variety, remove from stem)
  • any combination of the above! 

Pine nut substitutions

  • raw walnuts
  • hemp hearts
  • mushrooms (sautéed first—any variety)
  • pecans
  • or any combination

Parmesan substitutions


  1. In a food processor, combine pine nuts, garlic, arugula, basil, Parmesan, and salt.
  2. Pulse repeatedly while you pour in the olive oil through the food tube in a slow, steady stream.
  3. Process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  4. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  5. Enjoy!