May 4, 2010

Swiss Chard Pesto

Last year I made the mistake of setting a potted basil plant outside in early April. It must have been deceivingly warm and for whatever reason I was convinced we wouldn’t see the likes of frost until, oh, October. I’m sure this has nothing to do with the fact that I’m terribly impatient. The toaster isn’t fast enough. Needless to say that basil plant had to be nurtured back to life indoors. Lessons learned. One, don’t fall for Ohio’s Spring teasers and two, wait until at least the middle of May to move herbs outdoors. I can hardly wait for overflowing, rampant, what-the-heck-am-I-to-do-with-all-this? basil plants. Because then there is no excuse not to make pesto.

I’m certain most of you know pesto is not limited to fistfuls of basil leaves. All sorts of other lovely green things can take its place. Bright herbs like parsley and cilantro are a shoo-in. As are greens like spinach and kale and swiss chard, which are perfect for pre-out of control basil season. Not to mention all of the nutritional perks these dark green leaves pack. They make for a veritable superpesto.

Five to six cups of packed swiss chard leaves sounds like a lot, but it will wilt to a scant 2 cups once cooked. Make this up to three days in advance of serving (it also freezes beautifully). Toss desired amount with hot pasta or spread on bruschetta.

Swiss Chard Pesto

  • 1 T + 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 bunch of swiss chard, tough stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped (about 6 oz or 5-6 packed cups)
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • Cooked pasta (some pasta water reserved)

Heat 1 T olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Add swiss chard and toss to coat. Season with kosher salt. Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes or until chard has wilted.

Transfer swiss chard and garlic to a food processor. Add pinenuts, parmesan cheese, lemon juice and black pepper and pulse to combine. With motor running, stream in 1/2 cup olive oil. Check for seasonings (I add 1/4 – 1/2 tsp kosher salt).

Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Toss with hot pasta. Add pasta water to thin, if desired.

Refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze.

  1. allison from "a for aubergine"

    May 4, 2010 at 6:48 am

    I’ve never thought of using swiss chard for pesto, how innovative!

  2. Danna

    May 4, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Looks delicious, Carolyn! I LOVE pesto! You managed to do it yet again — my mouth is watering and it’s still too early for lunch! haha :)

  3. Stephanie

    May 4, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Ohio rule of thumb for ANY plantings is Mother’s Day weekend. We learned the hard way too…

    As usual, looks good!

  4. Katie @ Cozydelicious

    May 4, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    What a great idea! I have made spinach pesto but never used swiss chard before! Yum! I saw a bunch of chard at the farmers market last week, I’ll have to get some next time and make this!

  5. Laura

    May 4, 2010 at 8:16 pm


  6. Danielle

    May 5, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    What a great idea! My dad raises chard and always gives me a plethora that I end up either giving away or throwing away. This is a brilliant idea!

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