Lemon Tarragon Pesto

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a person in possession of too much [insert green here] must be in want of a pesto—or, at least, that’s how this recipe was born, as a response to too much 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. Pesto is a basic formula: greens plus nuts plus oil plus cheese plus salt (and plus garlic! and probably lemon!, at least if you’re asking me). Pesto is a basic process: combine ingredients in a blender or food processor and spin! But in return for your short ingredients list and easy preparation method, pesto gives you a killer¬†pizza sauce, fantastic toast topper, the kind of thing to make eating a bowl of pasta a special treat. Sometimes, especially when it’s a pesto like the one in this post, I eat pesto all on its own, spooning a bite of it to my mouth, smacking my lips together in sheer delight once I do.

But, here’s a bonus trick I only learned last summer, one that’s taken the ways pesto improves my life up one more notch: Up the oil, and you get one of the finest salad dressings known to mankind.

Lemon Tarragon Pesto

Does calling pesto salad dressing the “finest known to mankind” seem an overreach? Maybe. But I’m doing it anyway because, people, this dressing!

How can I explain? OK, picture pesto. Taste it in your mouth. Feel that cheesy, nutty spread hit your tastebuds, at once creamy and salty and slightly coarse. Remember it on the pizza you had last summer, the one with tomatoes and mozzarella and that thick slab of pesto layered on top. Now, take that idea—that wonderful idea—and thin it out with oil to toss it with greens. Whatever else is in your salad is irrelevant, so just imagining the greens will do. Picture every leaf, every ribboned strand, coated with olive oil married with the pesto you love. Listen to me, pesto is making that salad sing like a creamy bowl of comfort. Pesto is turning salad into a decadent event. Pesto is returning salad to its former glory!

Lemon Tarragon Pesto

I feel so sure of this truth, in fact, that I have nothing else I want to say today but, Eat Salad! Make Pesto! Then Rejoice!


Lemon Tarragon Pesto Dressing
Makes about 12 ounces

As shared in the above post, you don’t have to use this particular pesto recipe to make your salad dressing; take whatever greens or herbs you like; swap the nuts with walnuts or pine nuts or pistachios; use your favorite pesto recipe that you always like to make. All you need to remember, when you make it, is to keep adding olive oil until the pesto thins into a sauce. That said, however, this particular salad dressing, which blends parsley and tarragon with 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.

1 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped tarragon
2 garlic cloves
1/4 to 1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup grated Pecorino
Juice of one large lemon
1 to 1 1/2 cups of olive oil
Salt, to taste

Combine parsley, tarragon, cloves, almonds, Pecorino, lemon juice and about 1/2 cup of olive oil in a Vitamix or a food processor, until fully blended. Keep adding olive oil until you get the consistency of a salad dressing. Taste and add salt to your liking. Enjoy on toast, on salad, tossed with pasta, etc.

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 40 Comments

  1. Jacqui

    This post is making me long for summer, when I hope to grow enough fresh herbs to be swimming in pesto for months. But mostly it’s making me realize I need to make/eat more pesto, period. And pesto dressing!

  2. Kathryn

    Ah yes, I love using a pesto-esque salad dressing on a pasta salad in the warmer months with some fresh cherry tomatoes and a handful of bocconcini. I would say that it has me yearning for summer but as I’m sat outside in the sunshine and it’s 70 degrees here, I probably can’t complain too much can I? ;)

  3. Paula @ Vintage Kitchen

    The first paragraph is absolutely true, for me at least. I use pesto in everything, even soups. Everything is a little better with some pesto. But this recipe is very interesting because it uses a lot of lemon, which makes it great for salad, and I always pass up the fresh tarragon due to a lack of good recipes to use it in.
    Love this one Shanna!

  4. thelittleloaf

    I love how infinitely adaptable pesto is – so many different herbs and leaves you can use, nuts, cheeses and about a million uses from dips to salad dressings. The addition of tarragon here is lovely and that vibrant green colour makes me want to dive into a salad right now.

  5. Helene @ French Foodie Baby

    I have a big smile on my face after reading this post (obviously catching up on some FLW reading). Loving pesto play by play! I’m rejoicing already and I haven’t even had the dressing yet. It’s really a great idea, the pesto turned dressing thing. It shall make its way into our salads in the coming weeks :-)

  6. Kim

    I just might have to try this little idea with my next batch of parsley pesto! Have I mentioned that our parsley plant has turned into a bit of a bush? I’m guessing I could pull 8-12 cups of parsley out of there, and still not leave it barren.

  7. Pingback: Found | Inspiration : by Food | LimeBlog

  8. Jenn

    I found this recipe while searching for ways to use up all the tarragon and parsley in my garden before the temps dip to freezing tonight. Thanks for a great way to use last herbs of the summer! I’m also going to make a chive pesto with the last of my chives and some tarragon vinegar.

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