For much of my life I believed pesto had to be made with basil.
When I lived in Sacramento, I grew a small patch of basil that produced massive quantities of basil. I would harvest all but a few nascent leaves, and within a few weeks the plants would be gigantic again. I also grew lots of fabulous garlic and almonds. I gave pesto parties. People would come and help de-stem the basil, avail themselves of my Cuisinart, my garlic, my almonds, and go home with big bowls of pesto made however they wished to make their batch.
Upon my arrival in Mendocino seventeen years ago, I planned to continue growing basil and garlic, though I knew almonds were not to be grown here. To my chagrin, basil did not grow here in the fantastical way it grew in Sacramento. Indeed, it was not warm enough to grow much basil outside of a greenhouse, and the local slugs and bugs were attracted to young basil plants as cats are drawn to catnip.
I had a few years of modest success growing basil, but not enough to make more than small batch or two every summer, and I eventually resorted to buying basil from vendors at the farmers market who came to Mendocino from warmer climes. Indeed, I made less and less pesto until one day I was gazing at one of our two gigantic parsley plants and said to Marcia, “What can we possibly do with all this parsley?”
Not long thereafter, Marcia sent me a link to a cooking web site. I clicked on the link and was taken to a Parsley Pesto recipe. To my delight, the recipe was close kin to my basil pesto recipe, except instead of basil leaves, the recipe called for parsley.
Thus began my parsley pesto career. True, parsley pesto does not taste like basil pesto, yet we find it delicious. We also sometimes make chard pesto, which is also good, though I prefer parsley pesto to chard pesto. And now and then I’ll buy basil and make el classico. But for tonight… parsley pesto!