Carrots are one of life's most versatile veggies. They can be used in sweet applications like carrot cake, or as a savory roasted side dish. One way fresh carrots are not often used is in pesto. Carrot top pesto makes a great sauce for chicken panini or pasta dishes. A pitfall with carrots is that many people throw out one of the best parts, the tops. Remember, don't waste your carrot tops. Use them to make carrot top pesto!
What Exactly is Carrot Top Pesto?
Many of us recognize pesto as the green, herbaceous sauce often served on pasta or sandwiches. Traditional basil pesto is made with basil leaves, pine nuts and parmesan cheese. While this is the most recognizable version, chefs and home cooks alike are becoming more creative and putting their own spins on pesto. It's now common to find pesto recipes made with arugula or cilantro for the greens, and cashews, and pistachios, or pumpkin seeds for the nut. With a little bit of sea salt, extra virgin olive oil, and a bit of creativity, you can make your own spin on these classic condiments.
According to NPR, "Cookbook author Diane Morgan went searching for a cookbook but couldn't find what she wanted: an encyclopedic book on roots with lots of recipes for each." She decided to write and publish Roots: The Definitive Compendium, which covers well known root vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes, as well as lesser known vegetables like yucca and jicama.
Morgan talks about buying fresh carrots at the farmers market, and immediately lopping off the tops to compost them. She didn't realize she could use carrot tops, as she didn't know they were edible.
With the recent push to eliminate or reduce food waste, using the whole carrot is better than just tossing it or composting it.
Aside from being better for the environment, carrot top pesto is vegan and gluten free. It's also great for a quick sauce, as it requires minimal prep time. When you see carrots in your csa box or on your next farmers market trip, save a few cups carrot tops to create a delicious sauce.
How To Make Carrot Top Pesto:
The first thing you need to do is blanche the stems and carrot leaves. The blanching process softens the leaves and tempers some of the bitter flavor. To blanche, take one bunch of carrots, remove the thick stems, and add to boiling water. After 3 minutes, remove the stems and immediately place into a bowl with ice cubes. The change in temperature will stop the cooking.
Drain the carrots and leave them on a towel to absorb any excess liquid.
While the carrots are draining, you'll add all other ingredients to a food processor. What's so great about pesto is you can change up the core ingredients to suit your taste.
In the processor add your garlic cloves, lemon juice, lemon zest, mint leaves, green onions, walnuts, or nut of choice, and carrot greens. Every few pulses, make sure to scrape down the sides of the processor to make sure everything is incorporated.
Once you have a chunky paste, add the olive oil one tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste, and voila, you have a carrot top pesto!
You can easily store your pesto in the fridge to use with pasta, on sandwiches, or as a pizza sauce.
Let the pesto come to room temperature, put in an airtight container and store in the fridge. The pesto will last several days, even if the bright green leaves turn dark.
Carrot Top Pesto
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tbs lemon juice
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 bunch carrot top leaves
- 1/4 cup mint leaves
- 4 green onions
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 3 tbs olive oil
- To blanch the carrot tops: remove thick stem pieces. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Prepare a large bowl with ice cubes and cold water in it. Once boiling, add the carrot tops to the pot. Cook for about 3 minutes or until bright green and tender. Immediately remove from the pot, drain the hot water, and add the carrot tops to the ice cube bowl.
- Drain the carrot tops and spread them on a plate to dry while you do the remaining recipe prep.
- Add all of the ingredients except oil to the food processor. Blend until a chunky paste forms with small bits of carrot tops. Add the olive oil a tablespoon at a time until combined. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice if desired.
- Once cooled to room temperature, store the pesto in the fridge in an airtight container for several days. The bright green color may fade to a slightly darker green, and this is totally normal.