Supper Club, if you haven’t tried them before, garlic scapes are the flower stalks of a garlic plant. They look like curly green onions but they taste like garlic.
Okay, confession time: it never occurred to me to use garlic scapes in pesto. I know, duh, right? At least until I was talking garlic scapes with a very nice lady at our farmers market last Saturday morning and she handed me a copy of her recipe. (Alas, I misplaced hers somehow — a microburst thunderstorm came out of nowhere as we were talking — but it was easy enough to make with my standard pesto recipe.)
Naturally, I was intrigued.
You know how I love seasonal produce. And garlic scapes aren’t something you typically find in any grocery stores but they pop up briefly at the farmers markets in late spring.
But in terms of cooking, I think (or thought) of them more as vegetables. Cut up in stir fry or salad or anywhere else you might like the taste of a mild garlic is fair game. Even as a garnish.
Back to pesto.
I make pesto in a food processor. I wouldn’t normally have the patience for mortar and pestle exercise. Side note: pesto and pestle come from the same linguistic root, the Italian pestare, to pound or crush. Historically, the basil was crushed and the flavor released when it’s done this way is really bright and strong.
Some people blanch their garlic to tone it down but using garlic scapes for half of the basil leaves and instead of the garlic? Genius. I had to try it.
Please toast your pine nuts. It amplifies their flavor so much.
I use a non-stick pan over medium heat for about five minutes or until they start to brown. Keep them moving around the pan a bit and definitely keep a careful eye on them.
Pine nuts go straight from toasted to burnt in what seems like ten seconds flat. And they can be expensive. So, head’s up.
(By the way, the last time I was in Costco, they had pine nuts at a very affordable price. And Parmesan too!)
Rough chop the garlic scapes into 1-2 inch segments. Then, everything goes into the food processor except the olive oil.
Pulse the ingredients almost to a paste and then, with the food processor running, drizzle in the olive oil. Then stop. Try not to over-process it. You want some texture.
Let the pesto sit in a bowl on the counter for thirty minutes or so, at least while you’re making your pasta. Like tzatziki or salsa, the flavors really start to develop as the ingredients absorb them.
Garlic Scape Pesto
Garlic Scape Pesto is a delicious variation on a standard basil pesto and once you try it, you'll become a fan. It's so good. Visit suppertimeblues.com to learn more.
- 1 cup garlic scapes, roughly chopped
- 1 cup basil (when bunched tightly), roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- pinch of sea salt (to taste) How much depends on how salty your Parmesan cheese is!
After you've washed and dried the basil, toasted the pine nuts, and grated the cheese, put everything except the olive oil in the food processor and pulse it until it's almost a paste.
With the food processor running, drizzle in the olive oil. Stop the food processor once all of the oil is in.
Let sit while you cook pasta or half an hour, whichever comes first.
Keeps in the refrigerator for a week if kept sealed. Use a bowl and press plastic wrap down to the surface of the pesto to help keep it from browning. Some people use a very thin layer of olive oil if that's not possible.
Keeps in the freezer, sealed tightly in a plastic bag, for up to three months. But, if you're planning on freezing it, do not add the cheese. Stir that in after you thaw it out.
Remember to re-hydrate it with some pasta water when you're ready to use it.
You know that bottle of expensive olive oil you have stashed in the cupboard that’s too expensive to just use? Make sure it’s still good and, assuming it is, USE IT NOW. Life’s too short to use bad olive oil.
If you’ve had pesto before then you know the vibrant green color is part of the awesome. Especially when offering it to the kids. Garlic scapes are also green! But unlike garlic bulbs, scapes don’t keep very long before they start to go south. The good news is: pesto keeps well in the freezer as long as it’s well-sealed and you do not add the cheese. If you’re freezing it, stir in grated cheese after the pesto thaws.
[Pesto] has just one great role: to be the most seductive of all sauces for pasta.
Make sure you dilute your pesto with a couple spoonfuls of your hot pasta water (after you cook the pasta in it) to loosen it up before you toss with the pasta.
A little extra grated Parmesan cheese on top and you’re the hero.