Fresh Oregano Pesto

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by Michael on May 2, 2013 · 1 comment

in Recipes,Sauces,Technique,Vegetarian

Fresh Oregano Pesto. I am usually a basil kind of pesto guy, but the oregano has been just bursting out of the ground. Oregano can be a bit assertive when dried, but in the spring, the fresh leaves are mild and flavorful.

I have taken a few liberties with this pesto. But, in reality, pesto is a technique rather than a thing. Pesto is anything that is made by pounding. Pounding releases the fragrant oils as well as combining the ingredients. And in due course, I did not do this either. Like I said, I took a few liberties based upon some travel and my own particular bias to do whatever I want in the kitchen.

Right, here we go. I will provide all of my transgressions up front.

First, I roasted the garlic. Why? Just to take down the harshness that raw garlic can have. By roasting it, I can add more. And more garlic is good. Right?

Next, I blanch the leaves. Oregano leaves can be pretty tough. So I soften them a bit with a dunk in boiling water and right into ice-cold water. This helps soften the leaves and also helps keep it bright green. For basil I would not do this unless I am freezing a large amount. Then it makes sense to blanch the basil just to make it look good.

And in the classic sense, I am not making pesto. No pounding or blending. In the end, it will not be a paste. But it will be good. Pesto in the generic sense is a mix of herbs, nuts (walnut, pine, pistachio), cheese, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Pretty simple, but not the whole story. In many Italian meals, the ingredients are just chopped, mixed and served.

And for total transparency, I also added some garlic chives, parsley and thyme. They all needed to be trimmed back so…

Try it on a baked potato. Mix it into a quick sauté of vegetables. Buy a loaf of fresh crusty bread and a bottle of wine and just eat it straight out of the mixing bowl.


2 cups packed oregano leaves
Other optional herbs – as long as they are fresh
1 cup extra virgin olive oil plus extra for garlic
3 cloves unpeeled garlic
¼ pine nuts
½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese) or more to taste.
Salt and pepper to taste.


Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Place the garlic clove on a square of tinfoil and drizzle with olive oil.
Fold up the garlic in the foil and place in the oven for 20 minutes (or longer)
Remove and let the garlic cool.

Clean the herbs and place in a bowl that can handle at least 2 cups of extra water.
Boil at two cups water.
Add ice to a large bowl of water,
Pour the boiling water over the herbs in a colander and let drain.
Pour the ice water over the herbs and let drain.
Roughly chop the herbs and add to a mixing bowl.

Toast the nuts in a medium hot pan until golden brown.  Keep them moving, as they will burn.
Remove to a cutting board and coarsely chop and add to the bowl.

Peel the garlic.

Place the garlic on a cutting board and cover with the kosher salt.
using the back of the knife blade, crush the garlic and grind into a paste and add to the herbs.

Add a few grinds of pepper and mix the whole thing together.
Add 1 cup olive oil and mix until it’s all combined.
Add the cheese and mix again.

It’s ready to go. This will keep at least a week in the refrigerator.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Norm King May 2, 2013 at 1:43 PM



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