Skip to Content

Basil & Garlic Scape Pesto

Put those once-a-year garlic scape treats to great use by making homemade basil & garlic scape pesto! So fresh and tasty, you’ll never want to use store bought again!

Basil & Garlic Scape Pesto |

Hm. What are these crazy, curly tentacles that have been showing up at farmers’ markets the last week or so? You may have even received some in your CSA bag.

Whatever you do, don’t throw them out: these stalky peculiarities are a garden delicacy, available for only a short period in late Spring. In NYC, chefs roll out of bed mighty early to make sure they’re first in line at the greenmarkets to snag these once-a-year treats.

Meet the garlic scape.

Basil & Garlic Scape Pesto |

Garlic scapes are the central stalk produced by hardneck garlic varieties. This stalk contains the seed head, and if left to its own devices, will flower. Scapes are removed, however, to divert the growth efforts from the seed head back to the bulb to produce the hearty, juicy cloves we know and love.

Unlike onion flower stalks, which shoot straight up, garlic scapes tend to curl and corkscrew, creating all manner of interesting shapes.

In normal growing seasons, scapes do not appear until June; however, our crazy Midwestern weather this year accelerated the growth of over-wintered crops, like garlic, and scapes are available now in some regions. This is a photo of one of my hardneck garlic gardens earlier this week. I have a lot of scapes to use up!

Garlic scapes have a slightly milder flavor than the bulb of the plant from which it derived (e.g., if you’re growing a strong, hot garlic, your scape will still be hot, just less so). Use them in recipes as you would a scallion: slice them up and add them to salads, sauté them with other vegetables, add them to a stir fry.

My favorite use, however, is in pesto. Pesto can be easily frozen, providing a taste of June any time of the year.

Basil & Garlic Scape Pesto |

Lovely, fresh basil is abundant and a natural addition to this pesto. If you’ve never grown your own basil, I encourage you to pick up a starter plant at your local nursery and give it a try. You’ll never go back to store-bought again.

Basil & Garlic Scape Pesto |

Freshly grated cheese and pine nuts round out this simple, delicious concoction. Here, I used Parmigiano-Reggiano, which is my favorite cheese of all time. Except for Asiago. And French feta. And burrata. And smoked gouda. And anything made by Cabot.

Not a fan of pine nuts? Try chopped walnuts or almonds instead.

Basil & Garlic Scape Pesto |

Pesto purists will tell you the only way to prepare authentic pesto is with a mortar and pestle. I heartily agree. Except when I’m pressed for time. Or lazy. Then I’ll heartily disagree, and declare that a food processor is the only way to go.

Basil & Garlic Scape Pesto |

To store in freezer or fridge, a thin olive oil barrier will protect the ingredients from oxidation, which discolors the basil and accelerates spoilage.

Basil & Garlic Scape Pesto |

Serving suggestions: – Spoon over steaming pasta.
– Heat in a pan with a little heavy cream mixed in, and serve over grilled chicken breasts.
– Place in a bowl and serve with crusty bread for dipping.

– Nosh directly from the mortar with a spoon. Not that I never do that. No, sir. {*cough*}.

Karen xo


Print Recipe
No ratings yet

Basil & Garlic Scape Pesto

Prep Time15 mins
Total Time15 mins
Author: Karen Gibson


  • 2 cups basil leaves only, washed and dried
  • 3 garlic scapes seed heads removed, stalks coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts lightly roasted
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed Parmigiano-Reggiano Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • A few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil


  • Special tools: Pounding the ingredients together with a mortar and pestle produces the best texture and the most traditional-tasting pesto, but you can use a food processor.
  • Toast the pine nuts lightly in a pan over medium-low heat. Stir frequently. When the nuts begin to turn golden, remove to a plate to cool.
  • If using a food processor, place the basil and scapes in the bowl and process until finely ground and/or paste-y. Slowly drizzle in the oil until emulsified. Add salt and pine nuts and process until a thick paste forms. Add the cheese and pulse until mixed into the pesto. If desired, add additional olive oil to achieve a thinner consistency.
  • If using a mortar and pestle, add the basil leaves first with the pinch of salt and pound until the leaves have noticeably started to break up. Add the chopped garlic scapes and continue. Incorporate the pine nuts and cheese, grinding until you reach your preferred texture (if you like chunky pesto, stop when there's an equal amount of paste and chunks. If you like it smooth, keep going!) Add oil in small amounts to help achieve the correct texture.
  • To store, move contents to a sealable container, large enough to leave a little head room above the pesto. Level out the pesto in the container and pour a thin layer of olive oil to cover. Seal, and refrigerate. (To use, just mix the oil into the pesto and proceed.) Theoretically, the pesto will last several days. But don't count on any being left that long to confirm the claim.
Nutritional information, if shown, is provided as a courtesy only, and is not to be taken as medical information or advice. The nutritional values of your preparation of this recipe are impacted by several factors, including, but not limited to, the ingredient brands you use, any substitutions or measurement changes you make, and measuring accuracy.
Recipe Rating


Tuesday 16th of July 2013

Late to the party as usual, but I just wanted to say how excellent this recipe is. Pecans filled in for the pine nuts, which were noticeably absent from my pantry. Still so very tasty. Thanks!

Garlic Scape & Basil Pesto « The Spicy Simmer

Monday 6th of August 2012

[...] Garlic Scape & Basil Pesto (adapted from Soup Addict) [...]

CSA, Week 3 « The Spicy Simmer

Friday 6th of July 2012

[...] I intend to make some Basil & Garlic Scape Pesto - I would normally use it for an immediate dinner this evening, but we had spaghetti & [...]

Pesto Pea Pasta Salad |

Tuesday 22nd of May 2012

[...] (your choice of shape — I like wagon wheels or fusilli) 1/2 cup prepared basil pesto (or make homemade) 1/2 cup greek yogurt 2 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise 1 squeeze lemon juice 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 [...]


Tuesday 24th of April 2012

This pesto looks so good! I am actually hosting a garlic scapes linky party at as part of our Fresh Produce Tuesday series. I would love if you submitted this recipe!