Last updated on June 28th, 2015
What inspired me to make this sexy sauce? The giant lovage plant in my garden. I snipped its pale green leaves, and blended them with olive oil, almonds, lemon, nutmeg, and cream cheese. In other words, I made Lemony Lovage Pesto — a swoon-worthy topping for pasta, fish, chicken, and even toast.
Now, if you don’t have a lovage plant in your garden, my advice is to obtain one. Right away. Leaves and stems of this carefree, pest-free perennial have a strong celery taste. When topped with blue cheese dressing, the leaves make a terrific salad all by themselves. Since the stems are hollow, I use them as drinking straws for Bloody Marys.
But we aren’t drinking Bloody Marys today. We are making lemony lovage pesto, and spooning it over…well, whatever pops into our creative minds!
To start, clip some lovage stalks, and pinch off the leaves.
For this recipe, you’ll need 3 ounces of leaves (or about 5 cups when not pressed down).
Put the leaves in the bowl of a food processor…
We might as well add the juice of the lemon, too.
Then add 1 garlic clove, and try to forget that you saw three in my hand. Speaking from experience, three garlic cloves is exactly two too many.
Also add 4 ounces of slivered almonds.
Put the lid on the processor, and pulse several times just to break up the ingredients.
Scrape down the sides of processor with a polka-dotted spatula.
Now add each of the following:
A big handful (about 1 cup) finely-grated Parmesan cheese…
A (very blurry) speck of nutmeg (about 1/8 teaspoon)…
And a generous spoonful or rich, decadent cream cheese (about 3 ounces).
With the machine running, slowly pour olive oil through the feed tube until the pesto reaches the consistency you like. A thick pesto is great for dipping and spreading, while a thin pesto is better suited for mixing.
What to do with this perky business? Well, you could serve it as an unusual dipping sauce at your next cocktail party. You could also stir it into hot, cooked rice or mashed potatoes, or spread it on steamed chicken or grilled white fish.
Then again, you could smear it on your face and scare your children.
For a super-fast meal, put some linguine in a pretty bowl.
Spoon some lemony lovage pesto over the top…
And finish with a sprinkling of freshly-grated Asiago cheese. Yummy yum yum.
Here’s a copy-and-paste version of the above:
Lemony Lovage Pesto
Kevin Lee Jacobs (www.kevinleejacobs.com)
Ingredients for about 2 cups pesto
3 ounces lovage leaves (about 5 cups when not pressed down)
The grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove
4 ounces slivered almonds
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 ounces cream cheese
The pesto – put the lovage leaves, lemon zest and juice, garlic, and almonds in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the machine a few times just to break up the ingredients. Then remove the lid, and add the Parmesan cheese, salt, nutmeg, and cream cheese. With the machine running, slowly pour olive oil through the feed tube until the desired consistency is achieved. Transfer the pesto to a bowl.
Ahead of time note: If you are not going to use the pesto right away, coat the top with a little olive oil, and cover with plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Lovage pesto makes a terrific dipping sauce for bread or crackers. It can also be stirred into hot, cooked rice, mashed potatoes, or pasta. Delicious!
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No lovage for you? Try one of my other seasonal pestos:
Kale Pesto – My Way
Garlic Scape Pesto
Beverly, zone 6, eastern PA says
I grew lovage this year for the first time. I germinated the seeds in my winter jugs! I have loads of Lovage. When the seedlings get larger, I will be trying out this recipe.
The next Pesto hitting the food processor will be Dried Tomato Pesto ala Barbara Kingsolver, as I still have frozen dehydrated tomatoes from 2014 in the freezer. It’s a red treasure trove.
You enlightened me, Kevin, that pesto is not synonymous with Basil, and that many green plants from the garden can make a pesto. Crucial information!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Beverly – Glad to read about your lovage success!
Louise Brouillette says
Kevin, I planted lovage two years ago on your recommendation, and now I have a beautiful plant in my garden. I am so thrilled to find a recipe to use all the leaves that my lovely lovage is producing!
Thanks again for an awesome taste blaster recipe.
Try turning that lemon over when you squeeze it and let me know how it works?
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Louise Brouillette – So happy that you have lovage in your garden!
Hi Pat – It’s counter intuitive, but that’s the right way to use a lemon-squeezing gadget!
Kevin, the idea of cream cheese in pesto is brilliant… Thanks for another delicious idea. Susanne
I have a very sensitive stomach and I was delighted to find that the pesto was not only delicious, but also easy on the stomach. Bravo Kevin!
Elizabeth Loeblich says
Can’t wait to try this— thanks for the recipe! And also want to try carrot-top pesto I recently read about.
Kevin, this sounds great! Your chive pesto is one of my favs and people rave about it when I make it for guests. I certainly hope you get your book published, I love your recipes and also your clear and fun instructions.
Maggie Harvey says
Will try this soon, my lovage is beautiful; I also dry the lovage and use it in
recipes when I don’t have celery on hand and you can let the seeds form
and use in place of celery seeds.
love your ideas
YOU and your recipes are Sooo great. I just love the clarity and humor that you ‘bring to the table.’..with or without a ‘beverage’ in hand! And I like your hints on the ability to pre-prepare some of the delectable. Many thanks and happy summer gardening!
I have never heard of Lovage. Will need to try it. Wonder if I can get it in the store. And, yes until recently I was using my lemon/lime juicer the wrong way with the inside of the lemon up. It’s harder to squeeze the correct way but it does get more juice out.
Lovage who knew? Always see the plants at nursery and always wondered how to best use, now I know, thanks Kevin! Love the chive pesto, we have a wild crop of chives that is the first thing I love forward to when the snow melts and spring appears. After we get our fill of duck egg omelettes with chives and sour cream, it is on to making your pesto.
ingmarie peck says
OK I have to try this, but 1st I got to find a plant.
Melissa Horton says
YUM! Love the blue bowl too.
Kevin I have never heard of a Lovage Plant. Where would you buy it? Plant? Seeds?
Good one use basil instead?
Susanne G says
I don’t know a thing about lovage either, except that I LOVE its name! Maybe the farmers market will have some. It’s definitely worth a try. By the way, do you add cream cheese to all your pestos? Great idea for variety.
It’s been years since I grew Lovage, maybe I will again. Your plant looks wonderful and the recipe looks yummy. Can you give me an idea on what to do with Lemon Balm? I planted two plants a few years ago and now it’s all over my yard. Thanks.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Pat and Susanne G – Better garden centers usually offer lovage seedlings. Otherwise, you can grow the herb from seed. It’s a worthwhile plant to have in the garden!
Doris Gaumont says
Company will be arriving next week end, will include this on my menu. I always get great praise when I use your recipe’s,
Thank you for another good one!
I love all your pesto recipes and use them as a base for whatever is in my garden in abundance. Today will be carrot top, cilantro, parsley, and chives. I never loved pesto before and thought it was too rich, but I think that was the pine nuts. Now that I follow your lead and use slivered almonds, I adore it, especially on prosaic triscuits.
Cheryl hodges says
We grew up eating pesto but not the kind that came from Italy. Oil, dried basil and garlic with Parmesan cheese. No pine nuts, no olive oil nothing fancy but we didn’t know any better. Now I’ve made pesto the usual way and also out of anything green and leafy. I can’t wait to try it with Lovage as I’ve never known what to do with mine. Thanks Kevin! Your recipes are simply elegant and I can’t wait to see what you’ve thought up this week! I love you, too. From Montana grain country….
Kevin, Thank you for another enlightening and mouthwatering post.
I NEED one of those lovage plants!!
Does anyone know where these can be found? Near Boston?
This is great! I have a lovage plant looming in the corner of my garden, and now I know what I’m going to do with those beautiful leaves. Thank you!
Georgeann Brown says
Another idea for my lovage that is almost ready to bloom. Thanks. Never thought of Pesto. I usually just harvest and dry the young leaves and then keep in a large mason jar. Perfect seasoning for soups and stews in the fall and winter. Kids love the idea of sipping through the stem, non-alcohol drink of course.
Trudi Dido says
Interesting! I’ve never grown Lovage.but I do love celery so .. hollow stems make straws! and face masks ! My grands will love it . I will go get some at our local nursery today I really like the idea of substituting almonds for pine nuts ,they are cheaper too. Thanks . Cookbook publisher …come on…
You’re using the lemon squeezer correctly. This recipe will have to be tried. So much Lovage every year!
Thank you Kevin for the beautiful pesto recipe, I only make the Italian recipe, I never heard of lovage, but I see if I can found any.I prefer almond to pine nuts anyway,
Kevin thank you so much for this recipe!! I started growing a lovage plant last year on a friend’s recommendation and haven’t quite known what to do with it! Your recipe sounds wonderful and it’s definitely on my menu when it’s grown a little taller!! Had to rescue it from a hungry ground-hog last month so it’s had a little set-back but now after circling it with chicken wire it’s taken off again:)
Thank you again – Happy Cooking!
Deb, Zone 8, NW Washington says
Oh my! I am going to go buy a lovage plant This Week! I need to try more pestos! Basil doesn’t grow well here, so it is always a struggle to get enough to put up sufficient pesto in the summer.
I make a pesto for fish from lemon balm, chives, olive oil, walnuts and garlic. Yum!
Marjorie, Zone 9, Katy Texas says
Awesome looking Lovage Pesto AND a polka dot spatula…….now that’s downright sexy ! Can’t wait for your cook book. I enjoy your writing and sense of humor !
Looking for a recipe I’ve lost… last spring found a lovage recipe which included the blossoms, BUT my plant had already blossomed! Now my plant’s about to bloom again. Does anybody have this recipe?
Thanks Kevin, as above, your good recipes, gardening, & sense of humor… I so enjoy you!
Thanks for this recipe. I will definitely try it since I have a huge lovage plant that I basically use when I’m out of celery and need to add it to some other recipe. I also like when it blooms and our bees love it too. Always plenty of them sitting on the flower heads.
Linda A says
Hi Keven, How about taking a poll for most favorite lemon squeezers and why?
I use a little wooden reamer because it works great and is easy on my hands.
Downside is I have to either pick out the seeds after or use it over a small colander which is sort of a pain … so I just try to catch the seeds as I can in my hand and pick out those that land in the bowl.
“Easy on my hands” is big for me as the gripping motion is difficult for me.
Curious what your reader’s choice is and yours. And for what reasons.
Liz Davey says
I made this for dinner tonight with whole wheat linguine and grilled chicken. It was absolutely fantastically delicious. I have grown loveage for probably 40+ years after starting it from seed,(yeah, I am old!) and enjoyed using it in a variety of recipes, but this is one of the best and now I am thinking of all sorts of things I can do with the leftover pesto.
I, too, have a huge lovage plant among my herbs. Happy to know what to use it for. I love all your recipes and the humor with which you present them! Can’t wait for your cookbook!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Liz Davey – Thanks for letting me know that you made the pesto. So glad you liked it!
Oh, Kevin, thank you for the actual recipe! Also in my garden have a huge Bush of lovage. Now that Bush will not only be a decoration)))))
Oh, Kevin, thank you for the actual recipe! Also in his garden I have a huge bush of lovage. Now, this shrub is not only an ornament)))))
Thank you for another amazing recipe, and a reminder that this new-to-me house needs a few lovage plants! When I had lovage, it was great to substitute for celery in most recipes. In my Colorado garden, was even harvesting lovage through most of the winter.
Love all your pesto variations, and this one looks especially delicious. Will have to try lemon thyme in this pesto, too.
And agree with Angelique, would love to see lemon balm recipes. Wonder about adding both lemon balm and lemon thyme to this recipe?
Marye DD says
Wonderful recipe for loveage! I love my loveage plant and use it in homemade potato salad. Also I use it for bloody mary straws too! Thanks for inspiring me to use loveage in another way! I just love your blog… it is inspiring and beautiful!
I had to leave my herb garden when we moved a while back, and am slowly putting in new garden areas in our new home. I really miss my big lovage plant and hope to plant one this spring. Not only does it add a good celery taste to dishes, but it adds a thicker, almost meaty, quality to vegetable stock. I use it instead of celery most of the time, as I know several people who are allergic to celery, but lovage doesn’t bother them.
I’ll have to remember the pesto recipe when I have lovage again, but in the meantime, I will try your Chive Pesto recipe this spring.
Carolyn L. Houghton says
Kevin, I love your site. It is so well written. Your recipes and gardening information make reading your beautiful blog a joyous inspiration. When are you coming out with a book? I’d love to buy it.
When will your book be published? Can’t wait!!
I have an abundance of lovage in my garden and your recipe looked like a yummy way to use some of it up, but when I saw it mentioned somewhere that it’s a relative of parsley, I thought I better double check to make sure that it’s safe for me, a pregnant woman, to eat a large volume of it. Turns out like it’s cousin parsley, lovage is an abortifaciant. It’s safe to eat a little, but I probably should avoid a recipe this intense. Still, I have all this lovage to use up … do you think this would freeze well until I have my baby in about 5 months?
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Jessica – First, congratulations to you! And next; you can certainly freeze your lovage leaves. Check out the “Herbal Cigars” in this post: How I Freeze A Year’s Supply Of Herbs.
Van Waffle says
Thank you for this! Lovage is one of my favourite herbs for adding to soups all summer long. I had a huge plant go to seed in 2016 but it took up too much room and needed too much water in the solitary, sun-drenched raised bed in front of my townhouse. Last spring I sadly dug up the roots and dedicated the space to less overbearing plants.
But I didn’t have the heart to remove two volunteer seedlings that appeared over the summer. Now I’m bargaining with them: they can stay if they’ll submit to severe harvesting. I’m afraid I’m dancing with the devil. Most of their spring leaves went into a batch of this delicious pesto tonight, scrumptious served on red lentil pasta.
I’m pleased to have come across your blog. Herbs are my favourite thing to garden, and you have lots of interesting ideas about them.
Carol McCollum says
Have you published your book yet?? it’s Aug.2020. LOVE your sense of humor. You had me laughing multiple times… yes…’put it on my face to scare the kids’!! Oh boy! We definitely need more humor & happiness! Bought a lovage plant a couple wks ago. Didn’t know what I would use it for… tag just said it has a celery-like flavor. Soooo glad I found you!! It’ll probably be a while before my little plant is big enough to get 5 cups for this recipe. I have lots & lots of lemon basil, & lemon thyme, & regular assortment of other basils…. hmmmm and chives…. Gonna mix them up with a bit of lovage to add up to 5 cups to try your lemony lovage pesto recipe.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Carol – My cookbook was published in November, 2017. Hope you enjoy the pesto!