Did you know the word "pesto" is just a generic Italian term for anything made by pounding it? That's right, the bright green sauce we all know and love isn't pesto, it's actually called pesto alla genovese. This is only one rendition of the yummy sauce that Italy has and if they can have different versions of pesto who says you can't too? Experimenting in the kitchen is an important part of learning to cook so instead of spending money on the jarred stuff (which sucks anyway) just make your own pesto sauce!

All you need to make a totally awesome pesto sauce is a blender (or food processor), a knife, some creativity and a few key ingredients. The classic version of pesto sauce includes fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, crushed garlic, and parmesan cheese blended with olive oil and salted to taste. While this is simple and delicious on its own you can definitely get more creative if you want to, so keep reading!

Find a new nut

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Shelby Cohron

Pesto alla genovese is made with toasted pine nuts but boy are those things pricy. If you can't get your hands on these little guys consider swapping them out for other nuts or even certain seeds. Everything from peanuts to pistachios to pumpkin seeds work, you've just gotta find what works best for you.

Eat your greens

mint, herb, vegetable, relish, nature
Ellen Gibbs

Even in the good ol' days Italians would sub parsley and mint for basil if it was out of season, so why can't you do the same? Test out other blends of veggies and see what floats your boat. Any leafy greens (not lettuce!) and herbs you have lying around will work and if you see anything in your fridge that might be on its last legs just throw it into a batch of pesto sauce, it'll last much longer! Arugula is great for a peppery kick while chives are perfect for anyone who loves strong, oniony flavors. 

Spoon Tip: Certain veggies like carrots, beets and broccoli have leafy green tops that are totally edible that you can throw in your pesto sauce. Not only are you reducing waste but also saving $$$.

Try different cheeses

shop local, farmer's market, local dairy, Local Milk, local cheese, fresh cheese, cheese, milk, dairy product, artisan cheese
Sam Jesner

Traditional pesto is made with parmesan, but any hard and salty cheese will work too. This includes aged cheddar or gouda. If you want a dairy-free pesto sauce just leave the cheese out!

Spoon Tip: Avoid soft cheeses like brie or mozzarella as they won't mix well with the rest of your sauce and won't add much in the flavor department.

Add some flavor

Kendra Valkema

This is just my opinion but I think pesto should always have a clove or two of garlic in it. It adds so much flavor to the sauce and is great for your body too. From there you can add whatever your heart desires. Want a bit more salt? Throw in an anchovy or two (you won't be able to taste it, trust me). Want some savory notes? Hit the sauce with a dash of miso paste or nutritional yeast. Want something more refreshing? Add the zest of a lime or lemon. 

Spoon Tip: Blend cannellini beans or chickpeas into your pesto to give it a spreadable consistency that works great on toast or crackers. 

Blend it with fats and oils

herb, vegetable, garlic, pesto, oil
Kristine Mahan

Fat is good for you! At least the healthy kind... While I tend to use olive oil in my own pesto that shouldn't stop you from trying out other ingredients. Yogurt will give you a heavier sauce with a hint of sourness whereas avocado will make your pesto rich and creamy.

Spoon Tip: Add oils into your food processor or blender slowly, you don't want your sauce to get too liquidy. You can always add more oil but you can't take it out! 

That's all folks!

vegetable, herb, pasta, salad
Mujahid Zaman

There are hundreds of ways to customize your own pesto sauce and the ways to use it are even more endless. So get out your blender, raid your fridge and see what you can create!