Pistachio Mint Pesto – Flavorful fresh herb pesto sauce with fresh mint, roasted garlic, basil, lemon and parmesan.
When the season changes and the weather warms, I crave the herby flavor of a freshly made pesto. The farmers markets are teeming with lovely fresh herbs, and pesto can be made a variety of ways depending on which greens I have on hand. Generally I make pesto with pine nuts, but recently I had a batch of shelled pistachios on hand and thought– why not? I toasted them on the stovetop and made a batch of roasted garlic-infused olive oil. Roasting the garlic gives it a milder, sweeter flavor and makes the pesto easier to digest. I only had a handful of basil but plenty of mint, so this pesto is mint-heavy. I think the flavors work quite well together with the pistachios to create a unique spring or summer pesto.
Traditionally pesto is made with fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, salt, and grated parmesan. Over the years cooks have taken many liberties with the pesto concept, using sun dried tomatoes, different nuts, and a variety of herbs to change the flavor of the spread. Here are my basic pesto recipes, with cheese and without (vegan), if you’re looking for something more basic:
While I have a particular fondness for the traditional version of pesto, it is fun to get creative and try new flavor combinations. Once you get the hang of it, pesto can be a really versatile cooking concept that will add an herby punch to your everyday cooking.
This Pistachio Mint Pesto can be used to marinade vegetables or fish, added to salads or as a topping for bruschetta. With 4th of July around the corner, pesto is a terrific sauce to have on hand– it can enhance the flavor of many grilled dishes. One of my favorite ways to use it is to cook some pasta, reserve some of the cooking water, and mix a little of the water into the pesto– it creates a creamy, dreamy pasta sauce. The possibilities are endless!
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Pistachio Mint Pesto
- 1/2 cup olive oil (or more to taste)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 cup shelled unsalted pistachio nuts
- 2 1/2 cups roughly chopped fresh mint
- 1 cup roughly chopped fresh basil
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
You will also need
- Food processor, skillet, small pot
In a small saucepan, combine olive oil and the garlic cloves. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, until the garlic turns light golden brown and tender, about 15 minutes. Carefully remove from heat. The oil will be very hot. Once the oil has cooled to room temperature, remove and reserve the garlic cloves. Keep the garlic-infused oil, you will need it soon. Meanwhile, warm a skillet over medium heat. Add the pistachio nuts to the skillet. Stir them continuously over medium heat until they are toasted and fragrant. Remove from heat.
Add toasted pistachios to a food processor along with room temperature garlic infused olive oil, roasted garlic pieces, fresh mint and basil, parmesan or pecorino cheese, fresh lemon juice, and lemon zest.
Pulse the mixture, scraping the sides periodically, until the mixture is creamy but still has a nutty texture.
Scrape the pesto into a bowl and taste. Stir in salt to taste if needed. I add about 1/2 tsp of salt, but you can add more or less to taste. Some cheeses have more salt than others, so the taste test is important here. Stir in additional olive oil for texture if desired. Some people like a thicker pesto, while others prefer a more liquid pesto for drizzling. If you prefer a more liquid texture, add more olive oil by the tablespoon and stir until it's right.
Serve as a sauce, condiment, or topping, or use as a marinade depending on your preference.