Sunday, September 25, 2011

spicy spinach pesto

This recipe is entirely my own, and entirely the result of having a large bag of spinach that wasn't going to last much longer. It's also one of my 25 recipes, even though I've stopped pretending I'm actually going to finish that. Probably should have put more thought into the list, because some of it just isn't practical for me to make on my own.

I'd never had spinach pesto before, but I figured it was a logical switch, since spinach leaves are fairly similar to basil leaves in everything except for flavor. And I had a lot of spinach and not much basil (my one little plant grows bravely, but sadly there isn't enough sunlight in my apartment for it to really flourish). And it worked out really, really well. Especially once I added a handful of crushed pepper, because that makes everything better. As usual, all measurements below are approximate. Adjust according to your taste. This made enough pesto to fill a 14 ounce jar with a couple of tablespoons left over, so it would probably cover pasta for about four people.

2-3 cups loosely packed spinach leaves, rinsed and dried
handful of fresh basil leaves (as many as your plant can spare)
1/2 cup walnuts
1/3 cup olive oil
3-6 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
zest and juice of one small lemon
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
crushed red pepper to taste (I used about two tablespoons)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Put a tablespoon or so of the olive oil and a small handful of the spinach into your food processor* and chop up. This is the starter for your pesto (it helps everything blend more smoothly). Add the spinach and olive oil a handful/tablespoon at a time and continue to process. After the first one, add another ingredient with the spinach. I did walnuts first, then garlic, then the lemon, and the crushed pepper last, but it depends on which things you want crushed up the most. Taste and adjust. Mix in the cheese last (my processor has a 'stir' setting that was helpful here). Store in a jar or tupperware in your fridge... I'm guessing it'll last about a week.

* Note: don't use a blender for this, or you will just get green liquid that looks like it's from a swamp. Or at least don't use my blender for this. Maybe yours can do it.

Serve tossed with pasta and sun-dried tomatoes, topped with a dollop of ricotta or more parmesan. Or, you know, on toast. Because it's that delicious.


  1. OK, so mine wasn't EXACTLY the same but I DID make pesto tonight for dinner and it did have spinach and walnuts and cheese. I will try making it with pepper flakes soon. I've never used lemon in my pesto but I like the idea!

  2. The lemon is really nice, it works well with the spice and it keeps the greens fresh (the same way it keeps sliced apples from browning).