Spinach Pistou

by Jane Wangersky | July 3rd, 2015 | Recipes, Simple Solutions

pistou (400x400)You need basil to make pesto, right? Well, no, actually, it turns out. Parsley makes a different, but equally good pesto, as you may have read here a few months ago.

Our theme food right now is spinach, and it occurred to me that it might make yet another kind of pesto. The only trouble was, you do need nuts — traditionally pine nuts, though others like walnuts are good too. And, while maybe I should’ve saved the slivered almonds from last week’s salad, I had instead scattered them over a cake.

Hitting the Internet, I learned that while you can’t really make pesto without nuts, you can make the French version — pistou. Apparently there are no pine trees in the South of France where this sauce comes from, so it consists pretty much of green herbs, olive oil, garlic, and a little cheese.

So, pistou it was, but with minimal ingredients. Sour cream would give it both a moist creamy texture (like oil) and a tangy dairy taste (like cheese). Not really knowing what to expect, I gave it a whirl, literally.

This took a lot of processing. I thought of an instruction in one of Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Cook books from the 60’s, something like: “Let it cook while you light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink for five minutes.” Mine would’ve been: “Let it process while you go across the room and get a cracker to spread it on. Stop the processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Process again while you get another cracker.”

The wait was worth it. I ended up with a mild pasta topping that was also perfect with crackers and would go well with bread or even baked potatoes.

Spinach is notorious for cooking down — shrinking as it cooks. Many times I’ve brought a small dish to the table and told my family that, believe it or not, this had started out as half a pound. Though I didn’t cook it at all this time, it did just the same, maybe through mingling with the sour cream or just the process of being shredded. Anyway, you start with two cups of spinach and get half a cup of pistou.

Editor’s note: Another option is my family’s favorite pasta topping: spinach sauce.

Spinach Pistou

Yields 1
A mild pasta topping made with greens and sour cream


  1. 2 cups (loosely packed) fresh baby spinach
  2. 1 clove garlic
  3. 3 tablespoons sour cream
  4. 3 or more green onion tops
  1. Wash the spinach and green onions.
  2. Peel and mince the garlic.
  3. Put everything in a food processor with steel blade.
  4. Process into a paste.
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