Roasted Carrots with Carrot Top Pesto are an easy, elegant side dish that reduces food waste (and tastes great!)
Let’s talk about carrots.
Or more precisely, let’s talk about carrot tops and what to do with them the next time you leave the farmers market with a giant bunch of gorgeous, jewel-toned roots with their tops still attached. Your first thought might be to just lop them off and toss them in the compost bucket but don’t because they make the tastiest pesto that you can put on everything from vegetables to pasta to your favorite proteins. It’s even good dolloped onto scrambled eggs or schmeared onto a sandwich or wrap.
And making it will make you feel like a kitchen genius what with your ability to turn what used to be waste into something useful and tasty and pretty darn nutritious too considering that carrot tops have six times more vitamin C than the root and are a good source of potassium and calcium and phytonutrients. Though not hailed a ‘superfood’ they certainly don’t sound too shabby to me.
Bitter and Sweet.
While the root of the carrot is known for its sweetness, the tops are bitter. But don’t let that scare you. Bitter is actually sign that a food is nutritious (or in some cases, poisonous, but these aren’t going to kill you. I promise). If you’re not a big fan of bitter, I suggest swapping out half of the carrot greens with fresh parsley to balance things out a bit. And give it a try because you might actually like the bitterness when combined with garlic, pine nuts, lemon juice, and really good olive oil.
Let’s make some pesto.
You can do this while the carrots are roasting or you can do it several days in advance because the carrot top pesto will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. To keep it from browning, just pour a thin layer of your favorite olive oil or avocado oil over the top of the pesto in the jar and screw the lid on tight.
As you’ll see, making the pesto portion of these roasted carrots with carrot top pesto is quite simple. Just put everything but the oil into the bowl of your food processor or blender. With the lid on and the motor running, you’ll slowly drizzle in the oil and watch as everything comes together to make a salty/bitter/garlicky/tangy paste that you’ll want to
drizzle your carrots with slam dunk your roasted carrots into.
You’ll notice I left out the parmesan cheese that you’d expect in pesto. That’s because I wanted to keep this dairy-free for our vegan, plant-based, and Whole30 peeps and because over the years I’ve moved away from adding the cheese to the pesto and adding it to the final dish instead. I do this for two reasons:
- Leftover pesto freezes exceptionally well and can be frozen either in small jars or in tablespoon portions in a silicone ice cube tray. I always have some in the freezer for adding to soups (like this Italian Harvest Soup or Minestrone Soup) to give them an extra boost of fresh flavor, or to pasta or roasted spaghetti squash for a simple side dish. But when you add cheese to pesto and freeze it, the cheese gets grainy and less than appetizing so I’ve just learned to leave it out for this reason.
- Grating fresh parmesan ONTO whatever I am eating feels 10,ooo times more satisfying than when it’s IN the dish and I can’t see it. Anyone else feel that way?
Your finished pesto.
See? So easy yet so good. And those carrots. Swooooooon. So perfectly roasted with just a tiny bit of the carrot top still attached to make them look fancy.
But really, have you ever seen such perfectly roasted carrots? You’ve GOT to make these roasted carrots with carrot top pesto. If anything, do it for the fact that carrots are just about come into season and they won’t be any sweeter than they are at the end of summer and early fall. And roasting them makes them taste even sweeter – the perfect compliment for the pesto, naturally.
Simple weeknight or fancy dinner side…you decide.
The best thing about these roasted carrots with carrot top pesto is that they’re easy enough for a quick weeknight dinner (since you make the pesto while the carrots roast) yet elegant enough for a fancy-schmancy dinner.
They’re also great cold, dipped in the pesto, of course! So feel free to make a double batch and toss some onto your lunch salads or serve them alongside a fried egg or two and some sauteed greens for a killer Whole30-friendly breakfast.
For the Carrots:
- 1 ½ lb. carrots with leafy green tops; tops removed and carrots halved lengthwise if they are large (about 2 bunches)
- 2 tsp. avocado oil or olive oil
- 1 lemon, halved
- Pinch of salt and pepper
For the Pesto (makes about ⅔ cup pesto)
- 1 cup carrot top greens, tough stems removed (or 2 cups carrot top greens if not using parsley)
- 1 cup fresh parsley, tough stems removed
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 3 Tbsp. pine nuts, preferably toasted
- Pinch of black pepper
- Salt to taste
- Juice of ½ lemon (about 1 ½ Tbsp)
- ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp. olive oil or avocado oil (we prefer olive oil for more flavor)
- Preheat oven to 400℉.
- Place the carrots on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Toss with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange carrots in a single layer and place lemons, cut side down, on the baking sheet with the carrots.
- Roast in a preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until carrots are tender and lightly browned.
- While carrots are roasting, place all ingredients, except olive oil in the bowl of a food processor or blender.
- With the food processor (or blender) running, slowly pour in the olive oil.
- Stop and scrape down the sides as needed, processing until the mixture resembles pesto. If the mixture is too dry, add additional olive oil, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.
- Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.
- Transfer roasted carrots to a serving dish or plate, drizzle with pesto and serve with roasted lemon halves*.
Leftover pesto can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days. To prevent the surface from browning, pour a little olive oil onto the surface of the pesto before placing it in the fridge.
*Though not necessary, the roasted lemons are delicious for squeezing over the roasted carrots, or chicken, pork or fish that you may be serving with the carrots.
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- Serving Size: 4 oz. carrots + 1 Tbsp. pesto
- Calories: 188
- Sugar: 8g
- Sodium: 132mg
- Fat: 13g
- Carbohydrates: 17g
- Fiber: 5g
- Protein: 3g
What are some of your favorite recipes or kitchen hacks to reduce food waste? Share in the comments below!
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