Preparing your own pesto out of the odds and ends from your pantry and produce bin is simple once you know the formula. The proportion of greens can vary by up to a cup, give or take, as it depends on whether you use the tender leaves of vegetables or their denser stems and stalks. Stronger-flavored herbs, like sage and tarragon, should be paired with milder tasting herbs like parsley and basil. Stems from a few different greens can be tossed in together, so save your stems throughout the week and turn them into an “anything goes” stem pesto. I often add a small handful of herbs or greens (like cilantro or spinach) to my stem pesto for a smoother texture.
You can make pesto with many other herbs besides basil, as well as other leafy greens. You can substitute crumbly Cotija for grated Parmesan or pumpkin seeds for pine nuts. You can omit the cheese entirely or add other spices to give it more heat. And you can make the pesto as thin or as thick as you like, to use as a sauce for pastas and pizzas or a spread for sandwiches and crostini.