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Most people think of pesto as a summer recipe and it’s true that basic basil pesto is best in late summer when the basil is abundant and is at its most fragrant and flavorful. But at other times of the year, when the basil is not as sweet and a little more expensive, it can be fun to do a combination of basil and another herb, or swap out the basil altogether.
In fact, practically every ingredient in a traditional pesto is a viable option for swapping — the herb, the nuts and even the cheese. Its flexibility is what makes pesto the perfect pasta sauce for a weeknight dinner.
In the November issue of Food Network Magazine you’ll find a weeknight cooking recipe for Linguine With Almond Pesto and Beans (pictured above). To make this easy and filling pasta sauce, I used equal parts basil and parsley, swapped out the traditional pine nuts with almonds, and made it extra-luscious by using ricotta in addition to Parmesan.
As long as you keep the basic proportions the same, you can make up your own combinations with arugula, spinach, walnuts, pecans, ricotta salata, pecorino or whatever strikes your fancy. So get creative, stock up on pasta and have fun with it.