Sunday, May 27, 2012

Carrot greens-basil pesto

Carrot greens-basil pesto in pasta salad loaded
with roasted summer vegetables.
Tim bought two bunches of sweet local carrots this weekend, both of which were topped with especially lush greens. I've read before that they are more than merely edible but also quite tasty and nutritious, yet I always seem to let them go limp before I think to use them.

Some sources disagree about their merits, even warning that may be toxic. I had a kind blogger from distant shores caution me when I posted my intentions, then playfully implore that I "keep tweeting" so she would know I'm all right.

You want a handful of  fresh
carrot greens, not Carrot Top.
I am both well and pleased that I used those feathery greens to make an appealing pesto. I suppose I went the cheater's route - mostly substituting carrot tops for parsley in my ever-changing pesto recipe - but the result is both distinct and delicious.

Carrot tops lend an earthy, slightly bitter note to the mix, which I balanced with a scant teaspoon of sugar. Rinse the greens well to remove grit; use just the tender leaves and discard the tough stalk.

This batch made enough to generously dress a pasta salad loaded with roasted vegetables (noted below), with about a cup's worth left over. I see bruschetta in my near future and will save try to a few spoonfuls to toss with roasted potatoes.

Note: I inadvertently bought pecorino romano instead of parmesan, which I normally choose for pesto, making added salt unnecessary. If you use parmesan, you might need to add a pinch.

Carrot Greens-Basil Pesto
1 large handful carrot greens without stems
Same amount fresh basil leaves
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup pecorino romano, freshly grated
1 large lemon, zested and juiced
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
3/4 cup olive oil
a few grinds of black pepper
1/2-1 tsp. sugar, if needed
1/2 tsp. kosher salt, if needed

Toast walnuts in small skilled until fragrant; transfer to cutting board. When cool, chop coarsely.

Place carrot greens, basil and garlic in food processor work bowl. Pulse until coarsely blended then add about 1/2 cup olive oil in a slow stream while continuously chopping. Add grated cheese, walnuts, lemon zest and juice, and black pepper; set to on and drizzle in remaining oil. Taste for balance. If needed, add sugar and/or salt; pulse to combine.

You'll need about 1/2 cup pesto for the pasta salad below. Transfer excess to small jar and press plastic wrap to pesto surface; store in refrigerator for up to two days.

Pasta Salad with Roasted Vegetables
Any colorful combination of fresh summer vegetables will work, but this is what I used:
1 head purple cauliflower, cut into florets
8 purple summer onions, cut into 1/2-inch slices
kernels from two ears of corn
1 medium red bell pepper, 1/2-inch dice
2-3 medium carrots, 1/2-inch dice
1 pint grape tomatoes
Olive oil
1/2-1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup carrot greens-basil pesto
1 14-ounce box whole grain, multicolor penne
reserved pasta water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Arrange cauliflower, carrots, onions and bell peppers on shallow roasting pan coated with spray oil. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and roast about 20 minutes. Add corn and a little olive oil, if needed. Stir well and return to oven for 10 minutes.

If cauliflower is tender and browned, pluck pieces out and transfer to cutting board. Cook for about 10 minutes more or until vegetables are well caramelized but not dried out.

Coarsely chop cauliflower and transfer to large mixing bowl. Add panful of roasted vegetables and sprinkle lightly with salt, if needed. Place grape tomatoes on emptied pan and drizzle with oil. Roast about about 15 minutes or until they pop and look succulently juicy.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water for a boil. Cook pasta about 8-9 minutes, or as directed on package. Reserve about a cup of pasta water before draining; set pasta water aside.

Add drained pasta to bowl of roasted vegetables along with about a half-cup of pesto and a few tablespoons of pasta water. Stir well to combine. Add most of the roasted tomatoes, reserving a few pretty ones for garnish. Stir well, adding additional pesto and/or pasta water as needed. Scatter reserved tomatoes on top.

Serve right way or at room temperature.


  1. ... you've lived to tell the tale - EXCELLENT - now I'm dying to try this!

  2. I've also used minced carrot greens to garnish stir-fried carrots and cauliflower. It was purple cauliflower, so the green was especially appealing.
    The greens will stay fresh for several days if you tucked them into a glass and change the water daily.

  3. Hi! I'm going to make this in an hour or so! Looks AWESOME!! :)