When we hear the word pesto, we usually think of a traditional Italian pasta sauce made with basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and olive oil, all finely pounded. It has a distinctively herbal, rich and delicately sweet flavor with a creamy and slightly crunchy texture that instantly transports us to incredibly beautiful northern Italy from the first bite. This is the classic pesto alla genovese, translated Genoese style pesto, loved and eaten by people all over the world. But did you know that this is far from the only type of pesto? In northern European countries, a completely different pesto is often prepared and even preferred – the wild garlic pesto. Here we show you how you can make wild garlic pesto in your own kitchen in no time at all.
Quick, easy and delicious recipe ideas on how to make wild garlic pesto yourself
Both recipes are truly ready in no time!
The Italian pesto around the world
This may surprise you, but there are actually hundreds, if not thousands, of different and unique types of pesto. The term “pesto” actually comes from the Italian word “pestare” which means to crush, grate, or pound together. It refers to the traditional pesto preparation method using a mortar and pestle. However, it does not refer to the ingredients used in it.
In fact, basil can be accompanied or substituted entirely by a variety of other leafy greens, spices, and herbs. The same goes for the parmesan cheese and pine nuts. Just about any kind of cheese, nuts and seeds can be used. Hard cheese is usually preferred, but this is not a culinary rule. Some cooks even substitute walnut oil, flaxseed oil, pumpkin seed oil, sesame oil, and other oils of their choice for extra virgin olive oil.
Depending on the region and taste preferences, other ingredients can also be added, such as olives, citrus peel, sun-dried tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, artichokes, avocado, miso paste, tofu, yeast flakes, and others. While these pestos aren’t particularly traditional, they still technically fit into the pesto category.
Do you think pestos with other ingredients are still pestos?
Delicious hearty babka with wild garlic pesto
Wild garlic instead of basil
It is quite understandable that in many regions of Germany one cannot grow lush Genoese basil – the main ingredient of Genoese pesto. This Mediterranean plant simply needs a lot of warmth and sun to thrive. In addition, Genoese basil can only be grown here once a year, as it does not tolerate cold.
Wild garlic, on the other hand, is easy to grow in our gardens and is even easier to find growing wild in many deciduous forests from April. Numerous regional and traditional German recipes can be prepared with it, but also a few more “exotic” ones such as pesto.
We have to admit that the taste will definitely be different than the traditional Genoese pesto. However, it is a great alternative and definitely worth trying. In the following lines we share with you some delicious, easy and quick recipe ideas. One of them is also vegan. We will also show you a few interesting ways in which you can use your finished pesto in the kitchen.
After flowering, wild garlic no longer tastes as mild, so pick it as early as possible
Incidentally, the flowers are also edible and very attractive when plating
Make wild garlic pesto yourself with spring herbs
In this pesto recipe, the Genoese basil is not completely replaced with fresh wild garlic. Instead, the Italian herb makes up about a third of the mix, so much of the original flavor is retained.
The rest of the ingredients don’t stay exactly the same either, but they can be if you prefer. The wild garlic gives the pesto a special, spicy taste, similar to garlic, but sweeter and milder. It is added raw to the pesto, so it’s best to do a little tasting. If it tastes too much like garlic for you, simply reduce the amount in the recipe.
This wild garlic pesto is irresistibly delicious
To make this wild garlic pesto you need the following ingredients:
- 100 g fresh young wild garlic leaves
- 30 g basil leaves
- 30 g parsley leaves
- 100 g parmesan cheese, grated
- 60 g pine nuts
- 20 grams of pistachios
- 20 grams of hazelnuts
- 100 ml extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Start by toasting the nuts in a pan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. When they turn golden brown, immediately remove from heat and place in a bowl.
Place nuts, salt and pepper in a food processor and blend until a crumbly paste forms. Add the wild garlic, basil and parsley and chop everything finely. Add a dash of olive oil and the grated cheese and mix. Gradually fold in the rest of the olive oil until your pesto reaches the desired consistency.
Pour into a glass or airtight container and use up immediately. Leftover pesto can be frozen in ice cube trays or covered with a layer of olive oil. The oil prevents the green herbs from turning brown. Store in the fridge.
Instead of using a food processor, you can also mix the ingredients in the traditional way with a mortar and pestle
Penne with pesto – a real classic of Italian cuisine
Make vegan wild garlic pesto yourself
The preparation method for this vegan pesto differs only slightly from the above. Only the non-vegan parmesan cheese is substituted and a few other delicious ingredients are added. So if you’re making vegan pesto for a guest and just know how to make the original, you won’t run into any trouble here either.
For this vegan pesto you will need the following:
- 120 g fresh young wild garlic leaves
- 40 g yeast flakes
- 40 g cashew nuts
- 40 grams of almonds
- 120 ml extra virgin olive oil
- Zest and juice of an unwaxed organic lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: 20 g of agave syrup
Roast the nuts and mix the ingredients as described above. Instead of cheese, just add yeast flakes. It is best to dissolve the syrup in the lemon juice and add it with the zest immediately after adding the flakes. This vegan wild garlic pesto can be preserved and used like any other.
You don’t have to be a professional chef to master these recipes
Nutritional yeast can replace Parmesan cheese in almost any recipe
Which recipes can be refined with pesto?
The rule of thumb for Italians is – pesto for pasta. But that’s far from the only way to use pesto in the kitchen, and severely limits the potential of this amazing sauce. Here is just a short list of some dishes that you can immediately enhance with a few tablespoons of wild garlic pesto:
- Drizzle and stir into soups, cream soups and stews just before serving, creating a deliciously green strudel;
- Served as a dip for grilled vegetables, charcuterie and all kinds of hearty finger food;
- Drizzle over roasted meat, fish or vegetables as well as stuffed baked potatoes, pizza, risotto and others. Wild garlic pesto can also be added to these dishes before baking;
- Drizzled over Italian salads, especially caprese and caesar salad;
- As a spread for French toasts, toast, garlic bread, sandwiches and burgers;
- Wild garlic pesto can replace traditional basil pesto in pesto babka and other baked goods.
Delicious and healthy trout fillet with oven-roasted vegetables and wild garlic pesto
Linguine is undoubtedly the best type of pasta to pair with pesto
Make wild garlic pesto yourself – you can do that too! Just because Genoese basil doesn’t grow in abundance here doesn’t mean you have to give up this fantastically delicious Italian sauce.
Make wild garlic pesto yourself – which recipe will you try first?