The Best Ingredient You’re Not Putting in Your Pesto

updated May 31, 2020
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Last August, after blending together the same basic pesto for nearly my entire adult life, I branched out to try a different recipe after picking up a new cookbook. I was excited that the pesto recipe in Run Fast. Eat Slow would help me use up the quickly fading bundle of arugula in the fridge, but more than anything I was totally intrigued by one unexpected condiment in the ingredient list. It’s one that I’ve cooked with tons of times before, although never thought to include in pesto — and now that I have, there’s no going back because it makes for the most unbelievable pesto I’ve ever tasted.

Miso Paste Makes for Even Better Pesto

Add pesto to the list of ways to use that container of miso paste sitting in the back of your fridge. Used in place of salt, umami-packed miso paste not only seasons this herby sauce, but also transforms standard pesto into one with a richer, more savory, well-balanced flavor. It adds dimension and depth, taking even the most basic pesto to unexpected heights.

Add Miso Paste to Any Pesto — No Recipe Required

Chances are you probably won’t see miso in the ingredient list for most pesto recipes. Add it anyway! The beauty of pesto is that it’s extremely versatile and adaptable, so miso paste can be added, no matter what type of herbs of greens you’re using.

As for how much miso paste to add, it all depends on the yield of your pesto recipe. A little bit can go a long way, so a good starting point is adding one teaspoon of miso paste per half-cup of pesto. Taste the sauce once it’s blended together, and add more miso to taste.

Since it’s already well-seasoned, blending miso paste into store-bought pesto can leave it tasting overly salty, so save it for when you’re going the homemade route.

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