My love for pesto is well documented (like, very well documented). I love the stuff – it’s so super fresh, but still somehow perfect to eat all year-round. I attribute it’s consumability to its versatility: a classic pesto involves basil, pine nuts and parmesan cheese, but any or all of those can be substituted for other – seasonal – ingredients, and you’ll have yourself a delicious sauce, regardless of the time of year.
Another one of my favorite ways to transform a classic pesto is to turn it into a creamier sauce. It’s an incredibly easy way to turn basic pesto into something that seems a little luxurious, and if you happen to be feeding someone who “doesn’t want to eat a mouthful of greens,” like my husband, it’s a great way to trick them into thinking of their pasta as being slathered in a “creamy herb sauce” (what I have to call ‘pesto’ around my house in order to make sure it’s eaten), and not loads of…shrubs. The only notable adjustment I make to my classic pesto to morph it into a creamier sauce (aside from the addition of…well…cream) is to add a bit of parsley, along with the standard basil. Personally, I love parsley in a pesto sauce, and it works really well here: the added herb – which is sturdy and just a bit bitter – helps the greens stand up to the cream, so that everything works together, as cream can often dilute the flavor of whatever dish you add it to.
The other really great thing about this sauce is that the cream is only added at the last minute, so you can prepare a batch of pesto ahead of time and then transform it into this cream sauce whenever you feel like it.
I really enjoy this sauce over a pasta with sausage, white beans and peas (pictured) topped with a little bit of my Crispy Chili Oil, which I almost always have on hand, but it’s great as a sauce for roasted chicken or a filet of salmon, or even as a topping for roasted potatoes. Here’s how to make it:
Pesto Cream Sauce
- 3 cups loosely packed whole basil leaves
- 1 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves and stems
- 4 cloves peeled garlic
- 1/4 cup pine nuts *walnuts, pistachios or any nut of your choice work well here
- juice of one lemon
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp crushed chili flakes *optional, for heat
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
Pop the basil, parsley, garlic, pine nuts, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a food processor and process until the ingredients are finely chopped, about 15-20 seconds.
Add the olive oil while processing until the ingredients and oil have come together completely, about 10 seconds. (1/2 cup is an approximate amount – if you need a little more oil to create the sauce consistency you prefer, use a little more).
Add the cheese and pulse a few times to combine. (1/4 cup of cheese is an approximate amount – if you prefer more cheese, feel free to add more, but remember to decrease the amount of salt you add initially as Parmesan cheese is fairly salty on its own).
When you are ready to use the sauce, heat it over medium heat in a sauce pot or saute pan, with additional ingredients of your choice (I prefer sausage or chicken, beans and greens), and then add the cream and heat through/combine completely just before serving.