The thing I love about pesto is that there is no right or wrong way to make it. There are infinite ratios and combinations you can make based on a general formula of greens, nuts, olive oil, and cheese. Classic pesto is basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and Parmesan. This pesto recipe adds a twist with carrot top greens! Yes, I’m talking about those leafy stems on top of your carrots you usually are tossing in the compost bin. Reduce your food waste while enjoying a delicious, earthy carrot top pesto pasta with juicy, roasted heirloom cherry tomatoes. Pair this herby dish with an equally herbaceous New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
Use Carrot Tops in Pesto to Reduce Food Waste
People talk about “using the whole animal” when it comes to eating meat. However, vegetarians can certainly do the same when it comes to their veggies! This carrot top pesto is just one delicious example of “using the whole vegetable”.
Use the carrots as you would (salads, snacks, roasted, etc), reserve any scraps for vegetable stock, and turn the tops into pesto! Perfection.
You probably have ever even considered eating or tasting carrot tops before and may be wondering what they taste like. Surprise: they taste like carrots! Slightly bitter and earthy, carrot top leaves taste like if carrots and parsley had a baby. They are an excellent addition to pesto. Rather than using exclusively carrot tops, a blend of basil with the carrot topis is perfect.
Follow the General Pesto Formula for Success
I’ve experimented in the past with a lot of wild pesto combinations. I once even used kale, pistachios, olive oil, and gruyere (I’ll be honest, that one wasn’t my favorite). The classic basil, pine nut, olive oil, and parmesan formula is also reliable.
You can go all-in on the traditional method of using a mortar and pestle to grind your pesto ingredients down. Maybe when I have a little more time on my hands I’ll do that, but I usually just opt for the easy method of blitzing it all in my food processor. A blender would work just as well.
Tips to keep in mind when making pesto:
- Use high-quality extra virgin olive oil since the flavors will come through well
- Toasting the pine nuts makes a huge difference! But be careful, they burn easily
- A squeeze of fresh lemon juice is great for brightening up your pesto
- Freshly grated Parmesan or bust: none of that powdered stuff
- Avoid thick stems on your greens – a few are okay here and there but the bulk of your greens should be leafy
- Taste as you go and add more of each ingredient to your preferences
I especially love the low-food-waste aspect of this recipe because I frequently catch myself with cherry tomatoes wrinkling away in my fridge. If you’ve ever been one to toss old cherry tomatoes, think again! Let this recipe be an inspiration to you. All you need to do is roast those shriveled babies and they’ll be brought back to life better than ever. Of course, ditch them if they have mold and smell like something died. Otherwise, they’re still totally safe to eat.
You Can’t Go Wrong with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc is a match made in heaven for any pesto. Classically herbaceous, this wine is a slam dunk with any pesto dish. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc specifically is known for its bright citrus and intense grassy notes. However, any Sauvignon Blanc will do!
I happened to have this French Sauvignon Blanc on hand from the Loire Valley (one of my all-time favorite Sauvignon Blanc regions!).
Sancerre, a subregion within the Loire Valley, produces my all-time favorite Sauvignon Blanc and in fact, it is my all-time favorite white wine in general. However, it can be a bit pricier at upwards of $30 a bottle.
These Sauv Blancs are a little less herbaceous than a New Zealand version and tend to have higher minerality due to the limestone soil in the Loire Valley. Settling for a Sauvignon Blanc in the general area of the Loire is great bargain options for something between $15-25 a bottle.Print
Reduce your food waste using carrot tops in a delicious, earthy pesto! Toss in pasta with roasted cherry tomatoes. Pair with Sauvignon Blanc.
- 2 cups carrot top leaves, minimal stems
- 1/2 cup (packed) fresh basil
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
- 1/2 cup high-quality extra virgin olive oil
- 1–2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- Roughly 15 oz cherry tomatoes
- Your choice of pasta
- Lemon juice, to taste
- Additional olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic for seasoning along the way
- Quickly toast pine nuts over medium in a dry (no cooking oil!) pan on the stove. Watch careful as they can burn in the blink of an eye! Remove them from the pan when they develop a very light brown coloring.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Toss cherry tomatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic (minced or powder) in a baking dish until evenly coated. Roast in the oven for 20+ minutes. It’s very difficult to over-roast, but at least make sure they’ve roasted to the point of being tender. They should burst in your mouth!
- While the tomatoes roast, bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
- Cook pasta according to directions on the package. Use about half the package (unless you double the pesto recipe quantities).
- In a blender or food processor, combine basil, carrot tops, parmesan, olive oil, and pine nuts. Blend until completely smooth. Taste and add more of any ingredient as needed, to your tastes. Finish off with a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten. Blend again until any additional ingredients have dispersed.
- Remove tomatoes from the oven, drain your pasta, and toss them all together with the pesto.
- Garnish with more freshly grated parmesan.
- Open a bottle of chilled Sauvignon Blanc, and enjoy!
- This pesto can easily be made vegan by swapping parmesan for nutritional yeast.
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