Easy Garlic Scape Pesto Recipe

A garlic scape pesto is similar to pesto with all the traditional flavors, but so much more garlic flavor, not to mention other sources of umami flavor and savory richness, all blitzed in mere minutes in the food processor. It's hard to beat the fresh, springlike flavor of garlic scape pesto!

Garlic scapes look like an alien food, says food blogger and photographer Ksenia Prints of At the Immigrant's Table. But with the delicate aftertaste of garlic and pert, grass-like bite, they are a unique, zesty ingredient that is just dying to be paired up with nutty Parmesan cheese, silky smooth pine nuts, and some of the best olive oil you can find.

As for how to deploy the finished mix, this garlic scape pesto goes beautifully on top of crispy toast, pasta, or even pizza. Carb-rich sides and meals like these soak up all those juices and to act as a counterpart to the garlic scape's strong, unique flavors. It's the kind of dish that lasts in your fridge for weeks, and that you dole out in tiny portions just to make sure it lasts just a little bit longer. With it, the taste of spring can stay with you well into the summer.

Gather the ingredients for easy garlic scape pesto

With only five ingredients, our easy garlic scape pesto really is as effortless and simple as it gets. First, you will need a big batch of garlic scapes. Our portion starts with 2 cups of diced scapes, but if you have more, you can simply increase the rest of the ingredients to measure.

The best pairing for garlic scapes is raw pine nuts. If you're having difficulty finding them or are looking for a cheaper alternative, feel free to use pumpkin or sunflower seeds in their stead. To dilute the pesto, grab some of the best extra virgin olive oil you can find. One with fruity flavors will act especially well as a counterbalance to the spiciness of the garlic scapes, though you can also feel free to go with a more peppery olive oil.

To make the pesto especially creamy, we will use good grated Parmesan cheese. And finally, some fresh lemon juice will add just the touch of sourness that we need to lift up the whole dish.

What are garlic scapes?

But what are garlic scapes anyway, you ask? They are little tendrils of tough, crispy green stems that curl in and out on themselves, ending in a little bulb and a long, trailing root end. They look like a coiled nest of snakes waiting to jump out at you, if we're being honest! But never fear, for garlic scapes are nothing to be afraid of.

The truth is, garlic scapes are actually flowers, according to Cook's Illustrated. Traditionally, farmers have been removing garlic scapes for years to encourage the garlic plant to direct its energy towards growing a nice, fat garlic bulb. Those green bits used to get tossed aside or processed for mulch.

But in recent years, the popularity of farm-to-table and zero-waste food philosophies has led chefs to look at farmers' waste bins. So, garlic scapes have seen a recent and rather meteoric rise in popularity. They can most often be found in the spring when they're at their growing peak.

Process garlic scapes in food processor

Before proceeding with this ultra-simple recipe, taste your garlic scapes to gauge their potency. If the scapes are very spicy, then place them in a heat-proof bowl, cover them with a few cups of boiling water, and let them soak for 30 seconds. Drain and proceed with the recipe. This will help temper the intensity of the scapes.

Give the garlic scapes a rough chop with a knife. Transfer the roughly chopped garlic scapes to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse on high speed in short bursts for a few minutes, until the garlic scapes are cut into small pieces.

Add pine nuts and olive oil to food processor

To the food processor with the garlic scapes, add the pine nuts and pulse for an additional 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl of the food processor and mix everything to combine.

With the food processor running on high speed, slowly pour in the olive oil. You want to make sure your garlic scapes become well processed and mixed with the olive oil, like a regular pesto. The oil helps the pesto emulsify and become a cohesive sauce, rather than a disparate combination of finely diced ingredients. To achieve that emulsification, however, you have to be patient and pour the oil in slowly at first so it can disperse and not break into an oily mess.

Add Parmesan cheese and lemon juice, then adjust seasonings

Add the Parmesan cheese into the bowl of the food processor and pulse until the ingredients are combined. You may need to scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula again to make sure everything is fully blended. This helps everything come together and also makes sure you don't lose any of that yummy cheese flavor!

Add lemon juice and process until the garlic scape pesto reaches the desired consistency. You may want to add more olive oil at this point in order to make a more pourable garlic scape pesto.

Finally, take a moment to taste your garlic scape pesto. Add salt to taste and correct other seasonings if needed. Sometimes, you may want more lemon juice or more olive oil, for instance, to achieve the perfect flavor.

Serve garlic scape pesto on toast, or atop pasta

Voila! Your garlic scape pesto is now ready — and we recommend serving it immediately, in order to fully enjoy the fresh taste of those garlic scapes. Garlic scape pesto works great on top of pasta or spread on a piece of toasted, crusty bread. We especially love it on pizza with prosciutto and artichoke hearts. It's also great when mixed into a salad dressing with additional lemon juice and olive oil to help it coat all of the salad ingredients.

This easy garlic scape pesto will keep in a sealed, airtight jar in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, though it will lose its potency with time. Make sure that all the scape pieces are well submerged in olive oil if you intend to keep it over an extended period of time.

Easy Garlic Scape Pesto Recipe
4.7 from 3 ratings
With the delicate aftertaste of garlic and a grassy bite, garlic scapes are a unique zesty ingredient that is just dying to be paired up with traditional pesto.
Prep Time
5
minutes
Cook Time
5
minutes
Servings
10
servings
garlic scape pesto in a bowl
Total time: 10 minutes
Ingredients
  • 2 cups garlic scapes, roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces (about 20 scapes)
  • ¼ cup raw pine nuts (or pumpkin or sunflower seeds)
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • Juice of one lemon
Directions
  1. First, taste your scapes to gauge their potency. If the scapes are very spicy, then cover them with a few cups of boiling water and let them soak for 30 seconds. Drain and proceed with the recipe.
  2. Chop the garlic scapes roughly. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse on high speed in short bursts for a few minutes, until the garlic scapes are cut into small pieces.
  3. Add the pine nuts and pulse for an additional 30 seconds, pausing to scrape the bowl of the food processor.
  4. With the food processor running at high speed, slowly pour in the olive oil.
  5. Add Parmesan cheese and pulse until the ingredients are combined.
  6. Add lemon juice and process until the garlic scape pesto reaches the desired consistency. You may want to use more lemon juice or olive oil to make a more pourable garlic scape pesto.
  7. Add salt to taste and serve immediately.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 285
Total Fat 26.0 g
Saturated Fat 4.4 g
Trans Fat 0.0
Cholesterol 5.1 mg
Total Carbohydrates 10.2 g
Dietary Fiber 0.9 g
Total Sugars 0.6 g
Sodium 107.5 mg
Protein 4.9 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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