Pesto with a Twist

February 15, 2018

Pesto with a Twist

Helery Harend is a senior botanist at Natufia Labs. She has accepted to share with you her precious knowledge in botanics, her practical experience of what can be done and what cannot be done in hydroponics, her many 'tips' to have plants growing better, healthier and tastier and the many properties and good use of those plants that grow in the Natufia Kitchen Garden. Swell gardening and Bon Appetit!


Miniature plant world is exiting and provides a lot to discover for everybody. Experimenting with microgreens may give dishes a new and exciting twist. Microgreens can be used as a substitute for mature fresh herbs in many recipes.

The history of pesto dates back to the time of Ancient Romans. They ate a paste called moretum, which is made from crushed garlic, cheese, herbs, salt, olive oil and vinegar. A recipe can be found from the Appendix Vergiliana poem titled as Moretum.

The Pesto we now know originates from Genoa in Northern Italy. The earliest recipe appeared in Giovanni Battista Ratto’s book La Cuciniera Genovese in the 19thcentury. Pesto is an Italian classic and very dear to their hearts. Traditions go hand in hand with this simple and rustic, yet aromatic and delicious sauce. Pesto is made using the young basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, salt, olive oil and Parmesan cheese. In my version I suggest substituting some of the Genovese basil leaves with micro lemon basil. Vibrant micro lemon basil elevates the taste of the pesto to a new level, giving it a pleasant and slight lemony taste. 

Here is my version of a big favourite of many – pesto

Lemony Pesto

 - A large bunch of Genovese basil leaves (1.5 packed cups)
 - A large handful of micro lemon basil (0.5 packed cup)
 - 1 tsp salt
 - 1 large garlic clove
 - 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
 - ½ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
 - 100 ml extra virgin olive oil

      Wash and dry the basils. Put the garlic, pine nuts and salt to a mortar and using a pestle make the ingredients into a smooth paste, it may take some time. Add small amounts of basil leaves at a time and grind. Grinding releases the full aroma of basil. When the basil is added, and the texture is smooth, add the olive oil while stirring thoroughly. Finally add the cheese and combine.

      As with every recipe, everyone should adapt it to their own taste. If you like garlic, add some more, if pine nuts are not your favourite to use, substitute them with walnuts, cashew nuts or some other favourite of yours. If the pesto is too thick, add some more olive oil or vice versa – do not add all the oil at once. You can experiment with different basil varieties (cinnamon, purple etc.). Organically grown basil is free from chemical pesticides and fertilizers, therefor it can give your pesto a clean and superior taste.

      Pesto can be eaten right away. Add it to your pasta dish or smear it on a crispy bruschetta and enjoy with tomatoes. Pesto is a good salad dressing or dipping sauce, it goes well with steak, fish and poultry as well.

      Pesto can be refrigerated for a week. To do that, put the sauce into a jar and cover with a thin layer of olive oil. Pesto can be frozen as well. Put the pesto into an ice cube tray and freeze. Transfer frozen cubes to a sealable container or a bag and consume within six months.


         HELERY HAREND, MScNatufia's botanist

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