Chef Kelli's Garden Pesto Party


The summer season is in full swing and that means plenty of fresh herbs are ready to spruce up your menu. 

Among them is pesto, which is a versatile kitchen condiment that can help transform plain pasta, boring burgers, veggies, salads or most any meat into food bursting with fresh garden flavor.

Chef Kelli Lewton, owner and executive chef for 2 Unique Caterers & Event Planners, and colleague Chef Rece visited Fox2 Saturday morning and shared some of their favorite pesto recipes. 

Basic Garden Pesto
  • 2 bunches herbs ½ cup nuts ½ cup parmesan ⅓ - ½ cup extra virgin olive oil ¼ - ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tb fresh lemon juice 2 cloves garlic (or more if you love garlic)
· Chop your herbs by hand
· If you use a food processor be mindful to only use pulse setting as food processors can bruise the herbs and make for a bitter result.
· Toast the nuts: It brings out the flavor, takes away bitterness and it also reduces phytic acids that can be harmful to us in larger amounts.
· Use a sharp knife: If you don't have a mortar and pestle, you can use a knife through the whole recipe, separately cutting all ingredients very fine and drizzle a little olive oil during cutting over herbs and garlic, mix all well in a bowl at the end with salt, grated cheese, citrus and olive oil.
· Store pesto with a layer of olive on top to prevent oxidization
· Keep in refrigerator
· Freeze in small portion cups for super fresh pesto
· Add to mayo or mustard for zippy sandwich spreads
· Use as a condiment on salads, stir into hummus, dollop on gran bowls, rub on fish or meat, stir: into scrambled eggs, brush on frittatas, toasted crostini's.
· Top pizza, whip into batters, rub on raw veggies, use as a dip, bake on cheese
Kale Pesto
  • 6 cups kale
  • 1 cup parsley
  • ½ cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Process with mortar and pestle or buzz on pulse with food processor
Roasted Beet & Sunflower Pesto
  • 4 beets, peeled & medium dice (about 2 cups raw) ½ cup a handful of sunflower seeds 1 Bunch parsley
  • ¼ bunch mint
  • ½ bunch basil
  • (Herbs should equal ¾ cup total) 1 clove of garlic
  • ½ tsp sea salt juice of one small orange 1/2 fresh crumbled goats cheese a 4 tablespoons olive oil, extra virgin 1 tsp zaatar spice mix
1. Preheat oven to 350. Roast diced beets for 30 - 35 minutes with a little olive oil and sea salt sprinkled on top. Remove from oven and let cool.
2. In a mortar crush the garlic with salt, add a tbsp. olive oil.
3. Chop the herbs with a knife, very fine, add to the mortar.
4. Chop the nuts and beets in small fine pieces and add with lemon and zaatar to the mortar and mix.
5. Stir in small crumbles of goat cheese
6. Store the pesto to a jar or container; make sure the pesto has a top layer of olive oil. Keep in the fridge until serving.
Tuscan Sundried Tomato Pesto
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1⁄2 cup toasted blanched almonds, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. rosemary leaves, minced
  • 1 bunch basil chopped
  • 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1⁄2 tsp. Aleppo pepper or paprika
  • 24 pitted oil-cured black olives
  • 16 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In food processor or with mortar and pestle blend; oil, almonds, rosemary, vinegar, sugar, Aleppo, olives, tomatoes, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped; season with salt and pepper.
Strawberry Basil Pesto
  • 1 QT handful strawberries, chopped into small pieces ( mix in the last )
  • ¼ cup of toasted pine nuts~ chopped fine
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese
  • 4 TBS. Virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ cup or large bunch Chopped basil fresh basil hemp seeds
  • 3-4 tbsp. ¼ - ½ tsp salt juice of 1 lemon or small orange
1. Crush garlic add, pine nuts and crush, then cheese & hemp seeds.
2. Stir in; olive oil, citrus juice and basil & season
3. Move the pesto to a jar or container; make sure the pesto has a top layer of olive oil keeping it moist and delicious. Keep in the fridge until serving.
Nortic Pesto
  • 1 bunch handful fresh dill, strong stems cut off & chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, stemmed and chopped
  • ¼ cup virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup aged pecorino cheese
  • ¼ handful toasted macadamia or almonds, finely chopped
  • ½ sea salt
  • ½ cup handful frozen or fresh green garden peas juice of 1 lemon
  1. Mix; cheese, nuts, lemon and peas with mortar and pestle, add herbs
  2. Pound with the pestle with salt and lemon and olive oil.
Fusion Pesto
  • 2 clove of garlic
  • 2 green onions chopped ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 bunch basil
  • ½ bunch cilantro
  • ½ bunch parsley 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil 3-4 tbsp. parmesan cheese,
  • Grated 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • ½ cup unsalted peanuts
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • ½ tsp red chili pepper, chopped fine 1 tbsp. honey
1. In a mortar crush the garlic with salt, add a tbsp. olive oil. Chop the herbs very fine with a knife. Add to the mortar.
2. Chop nuts in small fine pieces and add with lemon and a little olive oil to the mortar. Pound with the pestle. Add lime, chili, soy sauce, parmesan and honey with olive oil and pound all together well. Taste and adjust if needed with salt and lime and olive oil. 
Rustic Garlic Scape Pesto
  • 1 cup finely chopped garlic scapes (or 2⁄3 cup finely chopped chives, plus 1⁄3 cup finely chopped garlic)
  • 1 bunch parsley chopped
  • 3⁄4 cup olive oil
  • 1⁄2 cup finely grated parmesan
  • 1⁄3 cup roasted, salted cashews
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • Black pepper to taste
Place garlic scrapes, parsley, oil, parmesan, and cashews in a food processor until finely chopped; season with salt and pepper.
Walnut or Pistachio Pesto
  • 1 ¾ cups packed basil
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup toasted walnuts ( or pistachios)
  • 1/3 cup finely grated pecorino
  • 1/3 cup finely grated parmesan
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
Process basil, oil, walnuts, pecorino, parmesan, tomatoes, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped; season with salt and pepper.


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