Super Greens & Sunflower Seed Pesto


You may find you are short on time to cook this weekend if you are enjoying the beautiful weather. No worries – you can throw together this pesto in no time with items you most likely have in your pantry. Don’t limit yourself to just tossing it with pasta, although that is a perfectly wonderful way to enjoy it. You could also use it on sandwiches, a base for pizza, tossed with broccoli or cauliflower just to name a few.

While you can use all sorts of greens, seeds/nuts and cheese in pesto, I especially like this mix for a few reasons. I used the arugula, spicy asian greens, Spigarello broccoli rabe leaves and basil mix from last week’s CSA share which really provides a great flavor base (you could also use kale or another hearty green). It is paired with sunflower seeds, which are economical and the flavor stands up well to the spicy and bitter greens. I then used a mix of Sequatchie Cove Creamery aged Coppinger and Parmesan, but you can also use just Parmesan or other aged cheese of choice.

Get out and enjoy the sunshine…and then make this when you come in to eat! Enjoy!

Super Greens & Sunflower Seed Pesto
makes about 1-1/2 cups

Recipe notes: I always find pesto needs salt and although not traditional, a little lemon juice, too. Be sure to taste after adding the cheese as you may find you don’t need it.


  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 3 medium garlic cloves
  • 5-1/4 ounces (about 3-1/2 packed cups) of hearty greens, tough stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan or other aged cheese of choice (grated on the large holes of a box grater)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, if desired
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, if desired


  • Place sunflower seeds in a single layer in a 12″ traditional skillet and place over medium heat. Stir occasionally until most of the seeds are toasted, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large capacity food processor.
  • Place the garlic cloves (with skins still on) in the same skillet and place over medium heat. Flip occasionally until the skins are starting to blacken and the garlic gives slightly when squeezed, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and when cool enough to handle, remove skins and add to the food processor.
  • Add the greens to the food processor and process until mostly broken down, about 15-30 seconds. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the processor as needed. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the cheese. Taste, and add salt and lemon juice if needed. Serve immediately or store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.

Collard Green and Pecan Pesto

Pesto needs no introduction. I bet almost everyone reading this has made one type or another. There are so many variations, based on anything from herbs (basil, cilantro, parsley, sage), greens (kale, arugula), mushrooms, tomatoes, olives, and roasted red peppers. This is my Southern take on the classic by using collard greens and pecans.

There are a couple tips for making a great pesto: first, roast the nuts and second, toast most of the garlic. Roasting the nuts brings out the flavor while toasting the garlic mellows the flavor so it doesn’t take over the dish (I do add a little raw garlic at the end, however).


Collard Greens & Pecan Pesto
makes enough for 1 pound pasta

Recipe note: 1) you can use the traditional Parmesan here but I liked mixing it up a bit by using cheddar; 2) use a traditional skillet (cast iron or aluminum) as opposed to a non-stick skillet to toast garlic as non-stick skillets can release harmful chemicals when heated without fat in the pan; 3) reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water to thin out the pesto if you plan on tossing it with pasta.


  • 1 cup (just under 4 ounces) pecan pieces
  • 5 large garlic cloves, unpeeled plus 1 small clove, minced
  • 4-1/2 ounces collard greens, stemmed and roughly chopped (about 2-1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2-1/2 ounces extra aged cheddar, shredded on large holes of box grater (about 3/4 cup) (see recipe note)
  • Salt to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste (I used 5 to 10 grinds)
  • Apple cider vinegar to taste (I used 1-1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 pound dry pasta of choice (fusilli, bowtie, shells)


  • Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350 degrees F. Place nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 5-8 minutes or until fragrant. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  • Heat unpeeled garlic cloves in a small skillet (see recipe note) over medium heat, turning every few minutes, until soft and skin is starting to darken and pull away. Set aside. Once cool enough to handle, remove skins and mince.
  • Add nuts, garlic, greens and oil to a large food processor and pulse until nuts and greens are broken down but still have a little texture. Transfer to a bowl and mix in cheese and raw garlic. Taste and add salt, pepper and vinegar as needed. Toss with pasta of choice and reserved cooking water (see recipe note), adding a little at a time until desired consistency is reached.