This pesto vinaigrette mixes up in the blender or food processor in just 7 minutes. Fresh basil, parmesan cheese and garlic combine to make a fresh, umami filled dressing for your favorite green salad. Tips included for keeping the pesto dressing a bright green color.
From Scratch Vinaigrette
This vinaigrette is made completely from scratch. I initially tested the recipe using prepared pestos but the different brands vary wildly in their flavors. One was very garlicky another was much more oily and another was super salty. This made it impossible to create a recipe that would yield consistent results.
So the best way to control the flavor and give you a delicious vinaigrette, is to make it from scratch. There’s still room for adjusting the flavor and the recipe card below includes guidance to help you make this a dressing you love. For even more info about making vinaigrettes from scratch, see my post the correct ratio for a vinaigrette.
How to Prevent Basil from Turning Brown
Basil leaves are delicate and turn brown quickly, especially when cut. And the more it’s chopped (like in a food processor or blender) the more likely it is to turn brown. If air can’t get to the basil, this will slow down the process.
So this recipe takes a few steps keep the basil green. First, the garlic, cheese, nuts vinegar and some of the oil are blended with out the basil. This way they’re already liquefied when the basil is added which means less blend time for the basil. Also oil is poured on top of the basil leaves before blending, coating them and keeping too much air from reaching them.
But unfortunately there is no stopping nature. The blended basil will brown some eventually. So to keep this vinaigrette green, some fresh curly parsley is added. Parsley can take a lot of chopping and stays green.
Lastly, when you bottle the vinaigrette for storage, pour a teaspoon or two of oil on the surface. This will protect it from the air and keep it greener.
Fresh basil leaves – Be sure to remove the stems – a few thin fine stems are okay. This will assure that the vinaigrette has a consistent texture.
Fresh parsley – You may wonder why fresh parsley is used in a basil pesto vinaigrette. Fresh basil oxidizes (turns brown) very quickly. It’s nearly impossible to keep anything with basil green on its own. Parsley on the other hand, especially curly parsley, does not oxidize at all easily. So a handful of it will keep this vinaigrette looking fresh and bright green.
Grated parmesan, a traditional ingredient in pesto, gives this vinaigrette a wonderful pop of umami flavor. Depending on the saltiness of the cheese you may need to add more or less salt than the recipe calls for.
Traditionally, pesto is made with pine nuts. But pine nuts have gotten crazy expensive and walnuts are a very good substitution. If you are not against breaking the bank on pine nuts, use them in the same amount as the walnuts.
White wine vinegar goes well with the other flavors in this vinaigrette. If you don’t have white wine vinegar, champagne vinegar or apple cider vinegar can be used as well.
This vinaigrette has a lot of strong savory flavors. And I always like to add a sweet element to a vinaigrettes to round out the flavor profile. Agave is an easy way to incorporate some sweetness, but sugar will work too. The recipe calls for a very small amount but it’s just enough to balance the sour, salty and bitter flavors in the vinaigrette
Salt – Parmesan cheese adds plenty of salty flavor. But I felt like a small amount of salt was still needed to balance the bitter olive oil. So I recommend that you mix up the vinaigrette without the salt and taste. If you taste any unpleasant bitterness or the vinaigrette needs just a little pop to bring out all the other flavors, add more salt 2 pinches at a time.
Salads with Pesto Vinaigrette
- With parmesan and basil this vinaigrette is perfect for a tomato and mozzarella or burrata salad.
- I love this vinaigrette on a green salad that has a sweet ingredient like orange sections, sliced apple or grilled pineapple.
- This dressing is a great dressing for a traditional Italian antipasto salad. Top a bed of romaine lettuce with sliced salami, cherry tomatoes, red onion, shredded mozzarella, kalamata olives and pepperoncini.
7-Minute From Scratch Pesto Vinaigrette
- ⅓ + ½ c extra virgin olive oil will be used in 2 additions
- ¼ c grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ c white wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp pine nuts or chopped walnuts
- 1 Tbsp water
- 1-2 small-medium size cloves fresh garlic (more or less depending on your preference for garlic)
- 1½ tsp agave or other sweetener
- 1 c packed fresh basil leaves, stems removed
- handful (about 1/4 c) fresh curly parsley will keep the vianigrette bright green
- ⅛ tsp salt, optional
- This recipe can be mixed in the blender, smoothie blender (my favorite method) or the food processor.
- Place the parmesan cheese, vinegar, water, nuts, garlic and agave with ⅓ cup oil in the blender/food processor. Run on high until the mixture is liquefied – about 15 seconds.
- Add the parsley and basil. Then pour the remaining ½ cup oil over the herbs.
- Run on high for about ten seconds – just until the mixture looks uniform. Blending too long will cause the basil to turn brown.
- Taste. If it tastes a little bitter (from the ev olive oil) or needs a flavor boost, stir in more salt 2 pinches at a time. A little more sweetener (½-1 tsp) will also help to tame bitterness and bring out the sweetness in the basil. I recommend stirring it in by hand and not blending.
- This vinaigrette will stay fresh when refrigerated for at least one week. Note: The extra virgin olive oil will cause the vinaigrette to solidify when chilled. Remove from the refrigerator 15-20 minutes before serving.