For a long time, I lived under the assumption that you could only make with basil, pine nuts, and Parmesan. If you wanted the famous green sauce but didn’t have one of those ingredients, then you were just straight out of luck.
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I’ve since learned that that is very much not the case. What I love about cooking is that it isn’t scientific, like baking. If you make a cake and mismeasure or use baking soda instead of baking powder, you could end up with something inedible. But if you add an extra clove of garlic or a bundle of dandelion greens to your pesto even though the recipe didn’t necessarily call for it, it will usually still be excellent.
In fact, as long as you follow a very basic recipe template (nuts + cheese + greens + oil), a delicious pesto is completely within reach. You can truly use any variant of these ingredients. Walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and even peanuts are all fair game in the nut department. As far as cheese goes, it’s entirely up to your preference. Feel like using aged cheddar instead of parm? Then do it! You won’t regret it. And your greens can be anything—they don’t even have to be leafy. Peas, broccoli, and avocado all work wonders in the sauce. Once you’ve assembled these ingredients (plus salt, pepper, and any other flavoring agents you desire), all you have to do is blend everything together. It really is that simple.
Take a potentially delicious chance on your next pasta by giving one of these 13 alternative pesto recipes a shot. They’ll teach you that no matter what ingredients you have on hand, you can always make a yummy pesto sauce in seconds.