Gone are the days when pesto* is made strictly with basil, pine nuts and olive oil. Nowadays savvy cooks are experimenting with a plethora of flavours and ingredients: coriander, parsley, cashews, almonds, various oils, etc. I have copious amounts of lemon balm growing wild in my garden and thus the following pesto recipe is a favourite of mine that I whip up when the lemon balm springs up and I am in the mood for a delicious light fragrant delight!
Lemon Balm Pesto is delicious on pasta (particularly if you are serving it with shrimp, chicken or fish), vegetables, green beans, fish, etc. You can keep it in the refrigerator for up to a week – or freeze it in ice cube trays to use as required.
Lemon Balm Pesto
- 60 grams (2 cups) fresh lemon balm leaves**
- 60 grams (about 3/4 cup grated) Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan) cheese
- 4-6 cloves garlic
- 60 grams pine nuts, cashews or almonds (or a combo)
- 1/2 tsp (3 grams) sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
Chuck all of the above into your food processor.
The next item you need is:
- 1/2 to 1 cup good quality olive oil
Whir the pesto ingredients in the food processor, slowly dripping in the olive oil, until the mixture reaches the consistency you prefer. You can use anywhere from 1/2 to 1 cup of olive oil, depending on your preference.
Note: I like my pesto quite garlicky and also a bit “rougher” than usual, so I use the 6 cloves of garlic and process it minimally. There is no right or wrong and as long as you get the ingredient measurements more or less correct, it is going to be absolutely delicious!
Re: All that Olive oil:
I suspect (although I have never tried) that if you were trying to make a lower fat version, you could also use 1/4 cup oil and thin it the rest of the way with water. Having said that, my philosophy is that you only live once , so treat yourself to the heart healthy olive oil and go for a walk after dinner if you are concerned about the calories.
It freezes well – just spoon it into an ice cube tray and freeze it!
*Pesto (Italian pronunciation: [ˈpesto], Genoese: [ˈpestu]) is a sauce originating in Genoa in the Liguria region of northern Italy (pesto genovese) and traditionally consists of crushed garlic, basil, and European pine nuts blended with olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese), and Fiore Sardo (cheese made from sheep’s milk). The name is the contracted past participle of the Genoese word pestâ (Italian: pestare), which means to pound, to crush, in reference to the original method of preparation, with marble mortar and wooden pestle. The ingredients in a traditionally made pesto are ground with a circular motion of the pestle in the mortar. This same Latin root through Old French also gave rise to the English word “pestle”. Thus sayeth wikipedia 😉
** Weigh lemon balm after you have stripped the leaves from the stems, and BEFORE washing. Spin it well dry in your salad spinner or tap it dry with a clean cloth. You may well be able to use tender stems as well – I never have, so cannot say with certainty.