It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person in possession of too much [insert fresh herb or leafy green here] must be in want of a pesto. Or, at least that’s how this recipe was born, as a response to an overabundance of tarragon in the fridge.
Now, I realize I won’t be telling you anything you don’t know when I say making pesto is easy, but it is.
The standard recipe is a basic formula: greens + nuts + oil + cheese + salt in your preferred proportions, with optional lemon and garlic added if you like.
In return for a short list of ingredients and an easy preparation method, pesto provides a killer pizza sauce, or a fantastic toast topper. It’s the kind of thing that makes eating a bowl of pasta a special treat.
Sometimes, especially when we’re talking about a pesto like the one in this article, I like to eat some of it all on its own, spooning a bite of it to my mouth, and smacking my lips together in sheer delight.
But, here’s a bonus trick I learned a few years ago, one that’s taken the ways this delicious fresh sauce can improve my life up one more notch:
Increase the quantity of oil, and you get one of the finest salad dressings known to mankind.
Does calling pesto salad dressing the “finest known to mankind” seem like overreaching? Maybe. But I’m doing it anyway because, people, this dressing is incredible!
How can I explain? Okay, picture a bowlful of pesto. Taste it in your mouth. Feel that cheesy, nutty spread hit your taste buds, at once creamy, salty, and slightly coarse. Remember the way it tasted on the pizza you had last summer, the one with goat cheese and kale and mushrooms, and that thick smear of herby, garlicky green sauce.
Now, take that idea – that wonderful idea – and thin it out with oil. Toss it with some greens. Whatever else is in your salad is basically irrelevant, so just imagining the greens will do.
Picture every leaf, every ribboned strand, coated with olive oil married with the flavorful green sauce that you love.
Listen: the pesto is making that salad sing like a creamy bowl of comfort. Pesto is turning salad-eating into a decadent event. Pesto is returning salad to its former glory!
I feel so sure of this truth, in fact, that I have nothing else I want to say today but this: Eat Salad! Make Pesto! Then Rejoice!
Once you’ve tried this version, you don’t have to continue to use the recommended combination of ingredients in this particular recipe to make your salad dressing in the future. Gather whatever leafy greens or herbs you like, swap the almonds with walnuts or pine nuts or pistachios, or use your favorite pesto recipe that you always like to make instead.
Having said that, this particular salad dressing is a delicious blend of parsley, tarragon, and almonds. And the bright kick of lemon has made me slap our kitchen counters more than once over the last week. So, it’s not a bad one to try.Print
Want to combine the sharp bite of pesto with the silky consistency of a vinaigrette? Lemon tarragon dressing hits all the right notes.
- 2 large cloves garlic, smashed
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
- 1 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh tarragon
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino
- Juice of 1 large lemon
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- In a food processor, pulse the smashed garlic cloves, almonds, and a pinch of salt until finely chopped, about 30 seconds.
- Add the parsley, tarragon, pecorino, and lemon juice, and pulse until combined. Scrape the herbs down from the sides to make sure that everything gets incorporated, and then add the remainder of the 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
- With the motor running, slowing start streaming in the oil until the dressing reaches the consistency you want. Season to taste with additional salt if necessary.
- Store in the fridge in an airtight container for 5-7 days. Give it a stir or a shake before use.
- Category: Salad Dressing
- Method: No-Cook
- Cuisine: Sauces
Keywords: salad dressing, pesto, lemon, tarragon
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Smash Garlic and Prep Herbs
First, get out all of your ingredients.
Using the flat side of your chef’s knife, gently smash the garlic cloves to release their aroma.
Rough chop the parsley and tarragon. Since these are going into the food processor, they don’t need to be finely chopped.
Step 2 – Combine Ingredients in the Food Processor
In a food processor, pulse the smashed garlic cloves, almonds, and a pinch of salt until finely chopped, for about 30 seconds. You could also do this in a high-speed blender.
Add the parsley, tarragon, pecorino, and lemon juice. Pulse until combined.
Scrape the herbs down from the sides as needed, to make sure that everything gets incorporated.
Add the remainder of the ½ teaspoon of salt that you measured.
Step 3 – Stream in the Oil
With the motor of the food processor on and running at a steady pace, start by slowly streaming in about half of the oil through the opening in the top of the lid, until the dressing reaches the consistency you want.
If the mixture is too chunky or thick, add a bit more oil and keep blending. For a more liquid consistency, continue adding oil and blending until it is velvety and smooth.
Season to taste with additional salt if necessary. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for 5-7 days.
Herby Garlic Goodness to Dress your Greens
If you thought pesto was only meant for pizza and pasta, this verdant dressing will be a game changer for your greens.
But don’t stop at salads. Char some hearty veggies on the grill (zucchini, eggplant, and rainbow carrots are a few of my favorites), toss them in this lemony herb mixture, and garnish with salty pecorino shavings for a hearty vegetarian platter even your meat-loving friends will go gaga for.
Craving even more delicious options to dress your salads? Diversify your dressing collection with these other novel concoctions:
If tarragon’s anise-like tang is too much for you, what fresh herb would you use in its place? Oniony chives? Sweet, refreshing mint? Share your subs in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photo: Tamicon. Originally published on March 26, 2013. Last updated: December 28, 2019 at 1:52 am. With additional writing and editing by Fanny Slater and Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.