7 Ways to Use this Easier-Than-Pesto Sauce

April  9, 2018

Something green + cheese + nuts + garlic + oil + salt (maybe some acid). It’s hard to imagine an easier flavor booster than pesto. And yet, in her newest book about all the green stuff, author Olwen Woodier has streamlined the formula even further.

“Besides making pestos and pastes year-round from my backyard herbs and greens, I also puree herbs with oil, salt, and pepper to make a basic seasoning,” Woodier writes. “These oil purees are often my lifesavers at the end of a busy day.”

Her usual ratio is two cups of herbs to one cup of olive oil with 20 to 30 twists from the sea salt and black pepper mills. For a thinner version, increase the oil by 1 /2 cup.

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“I may use a single herb, or I’ll combine compatible flavors, such as cilantro and basil; mint and parsley; mint and basil; cilantro and parsley; or sage and thyme,” she says. “Use your harvests and taste buds as your guide.”

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Top Comment:
“I was going to make pesto, but now I'm thinking a simpler herb oil with a bit of lemon juice to bring out the flavor of the carrot greens might be the way to go - I like the idea of adding garlic later as you use up the herb oil. ”
— Stephanie B.

However, Woodier doesn’t add garlic.

“According to researchers at the University of California at Davis, adding only oil to garlic can trigger the growth of botulism spores if they were present in the soil in which the garlic bulbs were grown,” she writes. “The addition of acidity, in the form of vinegar or citric acid, kills off any threat of botulism, so storing pureed garlic in a pesto, paste, or vinaigrette is okay, especially if refrigerated. It’s simple enough to add minced or sliced garlic to whatever dish you’re making with one of these oils.”

Woodier uses her herby oils as the base for stir-frys, dip for bread, or simple marinades for meat and vegetables. In the refrigerator, the purees become solid, but soon liquefy at room temperature. Rather than “thawing” one big jar, Woodier stores small batches in separate containers.

Inspired to try your own? Here are some dishes that lend themselves to an herby boost:

Would you use herby oils or just make pesto? Share your thoughts in the comments below!



Linda April 17, 2018
This sounds delicious! Would there be a way to do this with tomatoes?
Emily April 16, 2018
I do use herby oils (carrot tops, fresh mint, cilantro, etc.), but sometimes I will throw in some tahini or spice it up with a jalapeno as well. Always with good olive oil and lemon!!!
FrugalCat April 14, 2018
One of the few convenience foods I am a fan of are those Garden Gourmet herbs in a tube (like toothpaste). When I do buy fresh herbs, I like to do something like this to use up all the excess. I freeze it in ice cube portions and they are handy to have for seasoning.
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Katie M. April 15, 2018
My mom swears by those tubes, too! Definitely easier than chopping ;)
Stephanie B. April 9, 2018
I'm going to try this with the mass of carrot tops I have. I was going to make pesto, but now I'm thinking a simpler herb oil with a bit of lemon juice to bring out the flavor of the carrot greens might be the way to go - I like the idea of adding garlic later as you use up the herb oil.
Author Comment
Katie M. April 10, 2018
Ooh! I'd love to hear how it goes!
Stephanie B. April 14, 2018
Well I haven't used it on anything yet, just tossed in the freezer, but it tasted good. Just carrot greens, olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon. The carrot greens are mildly herby, so I think the lemon was a good call to round out and enhance the flavor. In the future I would cut the stems higher up, as they were a little fibrous where I started. I can see this going with LOTS of foods: brushed on focaccias and flatbreads, mixed into light salad dressings or grilled/roasted veggies, it would go well with chicken or even mixed into a chimichurri for steak. But I think the first thing I'm going to do is use it to make a springy olio e aglio. I had made carrot pesto before, but I like the simplicity of this better since the carrot tops are easily overwhelmed (in my opinion). One pleasant surprise of herb oil over pesto is you can really taste the olive oil in this - I'd be curious to try this again with a really peppery olive oil. Really glad I gave this a try!
Author Comment
Katie M. April 15, 2018
Thank you for sharing! This sounds delicious 🥕🤤
HalfPint April 9, 2018
I would use the herby oils. I've used Patricia Wells' light basil sauce for years now and I find it makes a better pesto pasta (with the addition of an egg yolk) than the pesto with the nuts.
Author Comment
Katie M. April 10, 2018
Interesting! I'm excited to try it out once my basil plants are a little bigger 🌱🌱