Wild Fennel Pesto

Pesto. It’s green, it’s beautiful and it pairs well with pretty much everything.

Got some boring old bread? Throw some pesto on it. A few chicken breasts headed to the oven? Slather on the good stuff.

And while the standard basil pesto’s found its way into seemingly everyone’s culinary arsenal, what most people don’t realize is that pesto can be made from anything.

If it’s green and edible, there’s a pretty good chance it can be made into pesto. Heck, even the “green” requirement is flexible, proven by the simply gorgeous purple product that results from swapping beetroot in to the standard pesto lineup.  

It’s springtime here in Northern California, so for this recipe, I’m using wild fennel.    

Making pesto could really just be called “mixing” pesto, as the bulk of this recipe consists of gathering your ingredients, tossing them into a food processor and hitting “go,” but unless you plan on consuming the entire portion in one sitting, I’d recommend the added step of blanching the fennel fronds.

If left unblanched, your pulverized greens will oxidize after a few days, changing the color of your pesto from the vibrant green we all love to an unappetizing brown-ish hue. The blanching process will kill the enzyme responsible for this and is, fortunately, rather simple:

  1. Give your fronds a quick rinse to remove and lingering dirt or debris. Meanwhile, get a big pot of water to rolling boil and add a half cup of salt.
  2. Toss the fronds in the water. giving them a quick stir. About 30 seconds or so.
  3. Remove the fronds using a strainer or slotted spoon and immediately transfer into ice water.
  4. Dry your fronds by patting them with a paper towel.

Boom. Your fronds are now blanched. Let’s get down to the pesto.

Time: 20 minutes


Wild Fennel Pesto

2 cups blanched fennel fronds, roughly chopped

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

⅓ cup pine nuts

4 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Again, pesto’s pretty simple. Combine the fennel, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic cloves and salt into a food processor and pulse until you’ve reached the desired consistency. I suppose if you’re really in the mood to sweat, you could break out the mortar and pestle and give it a whirl.

This recipe could be modified by adding in about ⅔ of a cup of shredded cheese. Parmesan or asiago would fit the bill nicely.   

Feel free to swap in this pesto anywhere you would use the basil variety. I think you’ll find that the anise flavor of the fennel gives it a little extra something-something that pairs well with pastas, poultry or even just the standard sliced baguette.