Pesto is one of those things I enjoy but never make. I blame the pine nuts called for in traditional recipes. Not only are they spendy, but I literally don’t know what else you can do with them besides toast them and toss them on salads. I’m sure between some googling and oogling of Pinterest boards I’d be more informed on the likely versatility of the pine nut (admittedly, they’d probably be pretty amazing in chocolate chip cookies), but that doesn’t resolve the hit to my wallet.
Enter the humble pepita. Which are around half the cost of pine nuts (and even less, depending on the brand). And you know what else? You can use pepitas to make pesto! And Pepita Pesto is super delicious, for reals.
That and there’s no risk of the dreaded and mysterious ‘pine mouth’ with pepitas.
Raw pepitas have a slightly sweet, nutty flavor and a delightful crunch. You can also toast the pepitas before use in this Pepita Pesto to enhance the nuttiness even more. But I think they work beautifully raw too.
Pepita Pesto is a departure from classic Italian versions but relies on the same core ingredients including garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. But newly invited to the party are parsley, cilantro, and lime juice, which add an herbaceous brightness, and red pepper flakes, which lend some heat. I feel that going the parsley/cilantro route over basil makes it something you can think outside of the pasta box with. You can use it in ways that aren’t decidedly Italian – like slathered on a pork loin, as a grilled cheese sandwich spread, or incorporated into potato salad.
I love this recipe because it’s fairly simple and because I always secretly feel super accomplished for creating something that looks so fancy, bright, and fresh. Just toss all the ingredients into a food processor and let it do all the work for you. But take all the credit.
*If you’re struggling to find pepitas, I recommend ordering online. You’re already here, so go out and get you some! I’m a fan of Sincerely Nuts pepitas, and order them from Amazon (affiliate link). Get a pound. Use the leftovers to make oven-roasted pepitas. Like these Crunchy Porchetta Seasoned Pepitas.
- ⅓ cup pepitas
- ½ bunch cilantro
- 1 bunch parsley (Italian or Curly both work here)
- 1 large garlic clove, grated or finely minced
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2-3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- ⅓ - ⅔ cups extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Remove the stems from the cilantro and parsley. I usually just cut just above the tie and don’t go to the trouble of stripping the leaves from individual stems.
- Add all of the ingredients except for the olive oil to a food processor, including a few dashes of salt and pepper.
- Start food processor, and slowly stream in ⅓ cup of olive oil.
- Process, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary, until well combined.
- Check consistency and add more olive oil, if necessary (see notes). You should have a sort of pepito pesto paste at this point.
- Taste. Adjust salt and pepper levels as necessary.
You can lightly toast the pepitas in a pan over medium heat for 2-3 minutes if you like.