Not sure what to do with garlic scapes? Make this creamy garlic scape pesto. Ricotta and parmesan cheese tame the pungent garlic scape flavor making a delicious and decadent sauce for tossing with pasta.
The first time I encountered garlic scapes was in my CSA box about 10 years ago. Up until then I had been pretty proud of my ingenuity at using up the weekly contents with ease.
That ended with the garlic scapes.
For my first attempt at garlic scape pesto, I shoved the entire bunch into a food processor, added some basic pesto ingredients and came out with a concoction that would kill a vampire from 50 feet away.
Apparently, unlike green onions, garlic scapes are not that much milder than the actual garlic bulb itself.
It was a learning experience to say the least.
This time around, I smartened up and decided to use a smaller amount of the garlic scapes and instead make this a creamy, cheesy pesto with a strong yet approachable garlic flavor.
So while this pesto may not look typical with a vibrant green color (make this ramp pesto recipe if you want that), I can whole-heartedly assure you that it’s way better than shoving a ton of garlic scapes in the food processor and trying to make “normal” pesto.
Unless you like to breath fire for days.
Since this recipe uses only one or two garlic scapes, it’s not the answer for using up a bunch of these early summer gems (that’s what pickling garlic scapes is for) but it is for sure, the best way to enjoy them in pesto form without sporting garlic breath for a week straight.
What is a garlic scape?
Garlic scapes are the green stalks that extend from the base of hard-neck garlic plants. They kind of look like thick chives but curlier in appearance. The garlic scapes are removed from the plant so the energy can go down into the bulb to grow traditional garlic.
The garlic scape stalk is composed of two parts: the stem and the flower. Both are edible and can be used in whatever dish you make using the garlic scapes.
Garlic scapes taste like garlic only much spicier and more pungent in flavor. They’re a wonderful seasonal item that can be found in many farmer’s markets and even some traditional grocery stores in late spring/early summer.
What can you do with garlic scapes?
Garlic scapes can be used in many of the same ways you use garlic. Minced up, they’re great in sautés and stir-fries, wonderful in omelettes and improve the flavor of any breakfast scramble.
Most commonly, however, garlic scapes are turned into a pesto or pureed into a spread.
How to make garlic scape pesto with pasta
This creamy garlic scape pesto is made like any other pesto recipe.
Combine roughly chopped garlic scapes with ricotta and parmesan in a food processor and process until the garlic scapes are finely minced. With the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil until combined.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside while you cook the pasta.
Reserve up to a full cup of the pasta water.
When the pasta is ready, drain, then transfer to a large bowl. Add as much of the garlic scape pesto as desired and a bit of the pasta water to the bowl to thin out the sauce. Toss until thoroughly combined and full coated in the creamy pesto.
Serve with additional parmesan cheese and a few thinly sliced garlic scapes to garnish.
What does this pesto taste like?
You’ll fall in love with the creamy garlicky nature of this pesto.
Traditional pesto is bright and refreshing while this garlic scape pesto is decadent and indulgent. It’s the perfect way to both tame the garlic scape’s intensity while also letting its innate flavor shine.
How to store the pesto
Keep any leftover pesto in a glass jar with a lid or an air-tight storage container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Unlike traditional pesto, this isn’t a great pesto for freezing because of the ricotta base.
Other ways to use garlic scape pesto
Like most pesto, this one can be used in a variety of ways, not just tossed with pasta. But if you do choose this route, any pasta will do. Soba noodles are shown here but almost any other shape is great with a creamy pesto like this. Bucatini is always a fun favorite and when I’m not making cacio e pepe with it, I often toss it with pesto.
Dollop this creamy concoction on top of any meat or poultry, use it to make pesto salmon, as the base for a white pizza (like this skillet zucchini pesto pizza), top a summer frittata or even use it as a sandwich spread.
It’s a great creamy base for making chicken salad and can be swapped out for the avocado in this chickpea pesto sandwich.
However it’s used, it’s an incredibly flavorful addition to the meal.
Garlic Scape Pesto
- 1-2 garlic scapes
- 1 tablespoon + 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 cup ricotta
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- salt & pepper
- 1/2 pound soba noodles or other pasta
- Combine garlic scape, 1 tablespoon of the oil, ricotta, parmesan and salt & pepper in a food processor.
- Pulse until garlic is finely chopped and combined.
- Drizzle in remaining olive oil while continuing to pulse.
- Set aside.
- Cook soba noodles according to directions, drain reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
- Return noodles to pot, add as much pesto as desired and toss to fully coat noodles.
- Add as much pasta water as needed to thin to create a creamy pesto sauce.
- Serve immediately.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.