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Carrot Greens Pesto with Linguini

By Heidi Allison

Sometimes, having nothing to work with in the fridge (or, so you think) forces you to think outside the box...with surprising results! In this cutting-edge recipe, Pesto is transformed into a completely new dish, one that is decidedly less aggressive in its herbaceous taste, yet comes across as somehow creamier and richer, with a slightly sweet, hint-of-baby-carrot flavor that makes this recipe not only more kid-friendly, but, also an exquisite new “go-to” for vegans and vegetarians!

In this dish, traditional basil is switched out for carrot greens, those delicate, lacy, kelly- green tops which are often thrown out. In this country, carrot greens are relegated to the rabbit bin or trash, while in France, carrot greens are considered a great delicacy, and are sold separately from the tuber — often appearing as secondary players in soups, sauces and salads. Americans shy away from these greens because they don’t know how to use them—-carrot greens can taste bitter if not handled right, or, if they are obtained from older, mature carrots. But, these greens are worth the effort: carrot tops are high in potassium, which has been linked to lowering high blood pressure (people at risk for heart disease often don’t eat enough foods high in potassium), supporting metabolism and preventing osteoporosis. These healthy tops are also packed with chlorophyll, a phytochemical that is an excellent source of magnesium, which supports healthy bones, blood pressure levels, lymph nodes and adrenal glands. This phytochemical also may combat tumor growth.

The trick with this simple dish—there are only 5 ingredients—is using organic carrots (pesticides are used in commercial growing), preferably young, heirloom carrots, which tend to be more tender, and have more flavor. If you can’t source young, heirloom carrots, make sure to use only the delicate leaves, and remove as much of the stems as possible, since they can get very stringy. If the pesto gets “stringy”, stop the Vitamix or blender, and add a bit more pasta cooking water, then scrape the sides and purée again until a smooth paste forms.

Carrot Greens Pesto with Linguini
Serves: 2 as a main; 4 as a side

Carrot Greens Pesto
Makes: 1½ cups

1¾ ounces Young, Organic, Heirloom Carrot Greens, stems removed (about 1 cup; or 1 bunch of Carrots)
5 ounces Raw Cashews
1 clove Garlic
1/6 cup Roasted Walnut Oil
4½ ounces Pasta Cooking Water (about ¾ cup)
½ teaspoon Kosher Flake Salt
1 pound Linguini Pasta

Image of boiling water for pasta
Place a large pot of water on the stove and add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a rolling boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta and reserve about 2 cups of cooking water.
Image of pesto ingredients in a blender vase
Remove as much of the carrot stems as possible, and place carrots greens into a Vitamix or blender. Add 4 ounces of pasta cooking water, roasted walnut oil, garlic and salt. Start on low speed and continue to increase the speed to medium until a paste starts to form. Stop machine and add a bit more pasta cooking water, scraping down the sides. Depending upon how tender the greens are, you may have to repeat this step several times, adding more pasta cooking water, until a smooth, homogenous paste forms.
Image of Carrot Greens Pesto with Linguini
In a large serving bowl, add hot pasta and ½ cup of pesto. Toss till pasta is coated and adjust salt if needed. Serve immediately.

Author’s Notes
This makes a great sandwich spread, and keeps in the fridge for 1 week.
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