The many faces of pesto

I recently became reacquainted with pesto – the healthy basil puree that is often eaten with pasta or with chicken.

About a week ago, I was filming a segment for the Trojan Vision Show, Delish, at the Good Karma Cafe, an on-campus eatery open Tuesday and Thursday that accommodates vegetarian students. The head chef began making some fresh pesto for his penne pasta. The pesto was made effortlessly out of basil, almonds, olive oil and some onion and garlic replacements and, when blended with the pasta, created sheer joy in my mouth.

I decided to make my own, but without basil – I used parsley instead. The pesto came out tasting a little different than expected, but all in all it was not bad and it tasted fresh, which was ultimately my goal. My pesto recipe was a variation of Bon Appétit’s Spaghetti with Parsley Pesto, but I think mine was better.

The variations of pesto out there are astounding. I came across a recipe that called for mild-tasting miso – yes, the same ingredient as in the popular Japanese Miso Soup – pine nuts, and habanero peppers.

Although it is traditionally made with Parmesan cheese, pesto can easily be made vegan. Pesto recipes often call for some Parmesan to be added into the mix to add that savory kick to that fresh taste that we enjoy so much, but you do not need it. Parmesan adds a kick and provides texture. The Parmesan can be replaced by nutritional yeast, leaving it out altogether or by adding extra nuts like walnuts and almonds.

Nuts can also be an issue in pesto, so there are nut-free options. Two Peas & Their Pod has a great recipe for nut-free pesto. This husband and wife duo has replaced nuts with an assortment of fresh flavors like, lemon juice, garlic and spinach for the texture and thickness of the sauce.

There are so many pesto recipes out there, and my favorite part is that it does not have to be made with basil; pesto can be made with parsley, mint, rosemary and also cilantro. The rosemary pesto is definitely next on my list to make – the aroma alone will have me swooning.

I think I forgot to mention how simple pesto is to make homemade; it’s ridiculously simple – all you need is a blender or a food processor.

Alegra’s Parsley Pesto (A variation of Bon Appétit’s Spaghetti with Parsley Pesto)

 What you will need:

4 cups of parsley (the leaves, packed)
½ cup of unsalted almonds
¾ cup of chopped green onion
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup finely grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper


Pulse the almonds in a food processor until smooth. Add the parsley, chopped green onion, extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan and process until smooth. To finish it off, season the pesto with salt and pepper to taste.

Alegra Hueso is a sophomore majoring in creative writing.  Her column “In Love With the Edible” runs on Wednesdays in print and Fridays online.