You are probably wondering – does nasturtium pesto actually taste good? Yes, it actually does! I admit, I was skeptical it might taste like a generic, bland, plant. But I was very pleasantly surprised at how it turned out.
Nasturtium leaves are slightly peppery, similar to arugula, but a bit more mild. Mix in your favorite nuts and some Parmesan cheese and you have a well-balanced pesto to brighten up some spring vegetables or pasta. This pesto, by itself, tastes just slightly earthy, but when mixed with pasta it was hard to pick out the earthiness.
This is a humble little sauce, and I don’t want you to think it will win any awards or turn you into a celebrity chef. However, I have had a friend or two ask to take some of my nasturtium plants home after trying it.
If you have a yard full of nasturtium (like I do), this is a wonderful way to use it up. Then give the rest as gifts to your earth-loving or frugal friends, and freeze the rest to brighten up a winter meal.
Slightly peppery nasturtium leaves, pistachios, and Parmesan cheese get blended together for a fast, fresh take on pesto.
- 50 Nasturtium leaves
- 1/4 cup pistachios (or favorite nut)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
Wash the nasturtium leaves and shake them dry (they can be slightly wet).
Toast the nuts (it intensifies their flavor and I love it) - put them in a dry pan over medium heat, stirring every 30 seconds or so. Cook for 2-3 minutes - until they start to smell good. Then take them off the heat, or they will burn (fast!)
Fill your food processor up 3/4 of the way, loosely, with leaves. Blend until they are chopped. Add more leaves, blend. Continue this until all of the leaves are blended up.
Add in the pistachios and blend until finely chopped.
Add in the cheese, red pepper and half the oil. Blend.
Add more oil until it's the desired consistency. This will highly depend on how much nasturtium you used.
Taste. Add salt, pepper, more nuts or more cheese until you like how it tastes.
This is a loose form recipe. Use as much nasturtium as you pick. I filled a regular sized colander with leaves, slightly packed. It resulted in 2 cups of pesto.
Recipe notes & tips
- Nuts: use any nut you like or have lying around. I can’t picture a nut that wouldn’t work well.
- The flowers are edible: they are also slightly peppery. I don’t blend them into the pesto because they are too pretty, so I save them to put on top of pasta, or on a vegetable platter.
- Free form pesto: pesto is really one of those things you taste as you go. Then adjust, adding more of whatever you think is missing. You can’t go wrong when you just follow your instincts.
- If something feels missing: I like to brighten it up when I add it to pasta, with lemon zest and lemon juice.
- Early vs late-season leaves – In spring, the leaves are smaller, more tender, and more mild. If the leaves taste too strong or are too tough later in the season, you could try blanching them first. You Grow Girl has instructions for that.
Inspiration for the nasturtium pesto recipe
My nasturtium has been taking over my yard this spring, so I wanted to use it up as I cut it back, saving it from the compost pile. I thought a pesto would be perfect so I dug through a few ‘regular’ pesto recipes to get some ratios of oil-to-stuff. Then I built on it from there.