Maria Gracia Santillana Maria Gracia Santillana | May 12, 2021 | Food & Drink
Delicious in sandwiches, pastas, or even as a spread, pesto is the perfect summer sauce.
Classic pesto alla genovese is well-known and appreciated by many, but today, Chef Jonathan Benno of Leonelli NYC shares his favorite spins on the nutty, garlicy fave. All five recipes start with a Genovese pesto basil base, and the experimentation comes in "what other flavors best compliment the fresh, aromatic quality of the base."
Walnuts and pumpkin seeds are nice alternatives to the typical pine nuts and even add a bit more texture. Both nuts require toasting before incorporating into the mix. This ensures the nutty flavors open up and mix nicely with the olive oil and basil.
Benno's ramp pesto takes advantage of in-season greens for an added punch.
"When ramps are in season," he says, "we love to utilize them for their garlic and onion pungency."
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His broccoli rabe take is a sure-fire hit. After blanching both the broccoli rabe and spinach, the greens are added into the pesto and olive oil mix. The result? An subtle bitterness that cut through the sweetness of the basil.
"All of these pestos are perfect for dressing salads, topping fresh focaccia, served with grilled meats or fish in the summertime, or even as simple condiments on your favorite burger or sandwich," he says. "The ramp pesto goes really nicely in a minestrone soup, kind of like a pistou. The Genovese pesto is great on a Turkey sandwich."
While all variations can be made in blender, Benno highly suggests all first-time pesto-makers invest in a quality mortar and pestle.
"It's the best way to really get all of the flavors out of the ingredients," he says, but most importantly, he wants cooks to enjoy the process.
“Have fun," he says. "Making pesto is a summer treat. No one should take it too seriously.”
Roasted Garlic Puree
You can try Chef Jonathan’s pestos at Leonelli Restaurant & Bar. For more information about Chef Jonathan you can check out his Instagram.
Photography by: Courtesy Leonelli Restaurant