Roasted Carrots with Carrot Top Pesto

Carrots ready for the Oven  (

Dear readers, have any of you grown carrots in your gardens?  If so, how do you know when they are ready to harvest?

Some gardeners told me that the carrot itself will peek out of the soil when ready to be pulled, but in my garden the biggest carrots stayed discreetly buried while smaller carrots volunteered for the task with rampant delight.

Others advised me that the delicate leafy tops acted as above-ground rulers for what was happening out of sight and that the height of these greens was a good indicator of the length of the carrot itself.  I hate to cast doubt on a beta-carotene version of the “hand test,” but the carrot greens in my garden grew with wild abandon and with blatant disregard for anything that was happening beneath the soil.

Still, despite my ignorance, I was pleased with my colorful crop and challenged to not let my bumper crop of leafy greens go to the compost pile.   Searching “carrot top recipes” on the internet yields lots of inspiration, but it was a recipe for “Roasted Carrots with Carrot Top Pesto” on the Bon Appetit website that got me salivating.

Carrots ready for the Oven  (

If, like me, you find yourself with lots of carrots and even more carrot tops this recipe will be your saving grace. The carrot top pesto complements the roasted carrots beautifully, but is not limited to carrot dishes. It makes a large batch and I tossed leftover pesto with tomatoes, used it as a spread for sandwiches, and made a scrumptious chicken salad with leftover grilled chicken breast, mayonnaise, and a hefty spoonful of this pesto.

The carrot top pesto will last a week in your fridge and as you wait for your summer basil to hit its stride your only regret may be that you didn’t make a larger batch.  Happy cooking!

Roasted Carrots with Carrot Top Pesto  (

Roasted Carrots with Carrot Top Pesto – Printer Friendly Recipe
Adapted from the recipe for “Roasted Carrots with Carrot-Top Pesto” in Bon Appetit (July 2013)
Serves 4

I thought I might be able to get away with using my mini-food processor for this recipe, but had to switch to my larger one halfway through the recipe.   Save yourself the dishes and use a regular food processor from the beginning.

For the carrots:
1 lb trimmed baby carrots (leave some of the stem attached), washed and peeled, if desired
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the pesto:
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1 small garlic clove
2 cups washed and dried carrot tops
¼ cup (packed) basil leaves
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the carrots with the vegetable oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spread the carrots on a baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes until just tender when pierced with a fork.   Let cool.

While the carrots are roasting, pulse the pine nuts and garlic in a food processor. Add the carrot tops, basil, and cheese and continue to pulse until a rough paste forms. Add the olive oil and process until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Toss the cooled carrots with a couple of spoonfuls of pesto and serve immediately. Leftover pesto can be tightly covered with plastic and stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. Use leftover carrot top pesto as you would any other pesto; it is especially delicious as a spread for sandwiches!

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