Cookbook Review: The Pesto Cookbook by OIwen Woodier

Note: I received a digital advance reader copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

People who know me know that I love a good pesto. It's my favorite sauce for pizza. It's my go-to quick meal (Costco frozen tortellini tossed in pesto and Parmesan). Whenever I see pesto on a restaurant menu, I have to order whatever dish it graces. But all this time, my view of pesto has been limited to Pesto Genovese, which is the classic pesto made from basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, and olive oil. Delicious, but this beautiful cookbook aims to broaden your horizons of what a pesto is. A pesto is essentially any kind of herb paste, with or without nuts, with or without oil. Who knew that gremolata was a pesto? Or romesco? Harissa, or even chimichurri?

It all makes sense now. Pesto is essentially a way to mix, concentrate, preserve, and add herbs to any dish in a way that packs a lot of flavor in a little package. Woodier teaches you that pestos can be versatile and convenient. They can transform a filet of fish or a handful of steamed vegetables into a gourmet meal. It's an exciting concept that makes this book a must if you have a robust herb garden. When you have too many herbs and not enough inspiration, this is the book to turn too.

The first three chapters of the book are spent on recipes for various types of pestos. The pestos range from classics like the Pesto Genovese mentioned before to new and exciting takes like Ginger-Peanut Pesto; Goat Cheese, Yogurt, and Lemon Pesto; Spicy Tomato Summer Pesto; and Sweet Pepper, Almond, and Chive Romesco. She rounds out this half of the book with a section on Herbed Oil Purees, Mayonnaises, and Vinaigrettes. If you love aioli as much as I do, this will be an especially exciting chapter. While these recipes are for what are essentially sauces, she does give helpful suggestions for how she likes to use these pestos in her everyday cooking, whether it be drizzled over roasted potatoes, or spooned over grilled steak.

She then moves to more traditional recipes that incorporate some of the pesto recipes in the first half of the book. This part is divided into the chapters "Soups and Salads", "Sides and Snacks", "Pasta and Grains", "Meat and Poultry", "Seafood", "Vegetarian Entrees", and Desserts.  The recipes take classic preparations, such as grilled flank steak and roasted rack of lamb, but infuse more flavor with the help of her pestos. Of course, the main flaw is that each recipe, while doable, requires the added step of making the pesto first, but many of her pestos keep for a long time in the fridge (she leaves out garlic to prevent the risk of botulism), so the idea is that you may already have it on hand.

As you can probably tell, this cookbook is absolutely packed with recipes. I counted 114 in total, and there really is a ton of useful information within those 114 recipes. There are gorgeous styled color photos of most of the recipes, though they are not always located near the actual recipe page-wise. The recipes are clear and easy-to-read, and the organization is fine. The writing style is practical and no-nonsense. She shares some particularly meaningful food memories within some of the recipe descriptions, but for the most part, they are short and succinct.

I really did enjoy this cookbook and plan on purchasing it, both for myself and for my future mother-in-law who has a prolific herb garden taking over her backyard. I'm excited to try a bunch of these recipes, in sandwiches and pasta, on pizza, and over simple meat and vegetable preparations. Olwen Woodier is truly a pesto goddess, and this book is a testament to that.

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

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