Napa Valley Olive and Lemon Verbena Pesto

Napa Valley Olive and Lemon Verbena Pesto
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About This Recipe

In the heart of wine country, where the olive groves flirt with sprawling vineyards, inspiration for dishes comes as naturally as the morning fog. While the valley is best known for its exquisite wines, the terroir of Napa blesses us with a diverse range of flavorful produce, and I often find myself experimenting with the culinary treasures of the region. My love for authentic recipes and desire to bring chef meals at home led to the creation of the Napa Valley Olive and Lemon Verbena Pesto, a harmonious blend of the valley's gifts.

On a warm summer afternoon, a casual stroll through the St. Helena farmers' market, a gem for any home chef, revealed stalls laden with fresh lemon verbena. The citrusy aroma instantly captivated my senses, taking me back to my childhood where I'd play hide and seek among lemon groves. With a bunch in hand and a vision forming, I moved on to the next stall where fresh Napa Valley green olives glistened under the sun. Their robust flavor, combined with the freshness of lemon verbena, seemed to promise a symphony of flavors.

Now, what to serve with such a delightful pesto? A crunchy sourdough bruschetta topped with fresh tomatoes would make a heavenly pairing. For a wholesome meal, tossing the pesto with some fresh linguine, cherry tomatoes, and grilled chicken is an easy healthy dinner option. Looking for a side dish? Roasted summer vegetables drizzled with the pesto, or a light salad with arugula, parmesan shavings, and a sprinkle of this green magic would be delightful. And for dessert, a simple vanilla panna cotta or lemon sorbet would echo the citrus notes, wrapping up the meal perfectly.

Source-wise, you're spoiled for choice in Napa. Apart from the St. Helena farmers' market, Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa is a treasure trove for fresh ingredients. For those of you wanting to delve deep, paying a visit to Round Pond Estate gives a fascinating insight into olive oil production and also lets you pick up some of the freshest oils.

Wine pairings? Ah, my favorite part! Given the citrusy and savory profile of the pesto, a crisp Sauvignon Blanc from Frog's Leap Winery offers a balanced dance of acidity and fruit. For those partial to reds, a light Pinot Noir from Etude Wines complements the olives' richness beautifully. And, if you're willing to venture a tad outside Napa to Sonoma County, the Chardonnays from Russian River Valley, with their citrus undertones, could be a delightful match.

Venturing into the vast expanse of vineyards, savoring the restaurant wine menus, or just being a valley chef, Napa's culinary journey is as rich and varied as its viticulture. This pesto is but a small tribute to the lush, verdant landscapes, the sun-kissed vines, and the passionate farmers and vintners who make Napa, well, Napa.

In every drizzle of this pesto, you taste the love, tradition, and passion of wine country. I hope this dish finds a place in your heart, and your kitchen, echoing memories of golden sunsets over vineyards and the chirping of crickets on a balmy evening. Happy cooking, and cheers to your Napa Valley-inspired culinary adventures!

Hero Ingredient Spotlight: Lemon Verbena

Lemon verbena is more than just a fragrant herb—it's the aromatic soul of our Napa Valley Olive and Lemon Verbena Pesto. Native to South America, but thriving in the temperate climate of Napa Valley, lemon verbena is renowned for its potent citrus aroma. Every leaf is like a zest of lemon, without the tang. Incorporating lemon verbena into recipes offers a refreshing, citrusy dimension, making it a favorite among chefs and home cooks alike. Its vibrant green leaves not only provide dishes with an aromatic depth but also have health benefits such as aiding digestion and reducing inflammation.

How To: Achieve the Perfect Pesto Consistency

Step-by-Step Guide to Using Your Food Processor Efficiently

  1. Even Ingredient Distribution: Begin by ensuring all your ingredients are uniformly chopped. This promotes even blending.
  2. Layering is Key: Place the tougher ingredients, like pine nuts and olives, at the bottom. Layer the lemon verbena leaves on top.
  3. Pulse, Don't Blend: Use short, sharp pulses initially. This will break down the larger pieces without overworking the motor.
  4. Scrape the Sides: As you blend, occasionally stop and use a spatula to scrape down the sides. This ensures everything gets processed evenly.
  5. Slow Stream: When adding liquids, like the extra virgin olive oil, pour it in a slow stream with the processor running. This creates a smooth emulsion without separating the oil.


  1. Can I substitute another herb for lemon verbena? While lemon verbena is unique, if it's not available, you can use fresh basil leaves and add some lemon zest for that citrusy touch.
  2. How long does this pesto last in the refrigerator? When stored in an airtight container, the pesto can last up to a week. It's essential to ensure there's a thin layer of olive oil on top to keep it fresh.
  3. Any nut alternatives to pine nuts? Absolutely! Almonds or walnuts are great alternatives, giving a slightly different texture and flavor to the pesto.
  4. Is this pesto gluten-free? Yes, this pesto recipe is gluten-free. However, always check ingredient labels, especially if serving to someone with a gluten allergy.
  5. What's the best way to use leftover pesto? Leftover pesto is versatile! Use it as a sandwich spread, drizzle over roasted veggies, or even stir into soups for added flavor.

Tips for Success

  1. High-Quality Olive Oil: The quality of your olive oil can make or break your pesto. Opt for a good quality, preferably locally sourced, extra virgin olive oil from Napa Valley producers for an authentic touch.
  2. Adjust to Taste: The beauty of pesto lies in its flexibility. Feel free to adjust the ingredients based on your preference. Want it tangier? Add more lemon zest and juice. Crave a creamier texture? Incorporate more olives or olive oil.
  3. Pairing Ideas: This pesto shines when paired with freshly baked bread or integrated into pasta dishes. However, think outside the box! Consider using it as a base for a salad dressing or as a marinade for grilled chicken or fish. The possibilities are endless!

Recipe Overview

Napa Valley Olive and Lemon Verbena Pesto
Lily Anderson
4 servings
Calories Per Serving:
Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:

Ingredients List


  • 1 cup fresh lemon verbena leaves
  • 1/2 cup Napa Valley green olives, pitted
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, preferably from a local Napa Valley producer
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. In a food processor, combine the lemon verbena, olives, pine nuts, and garlic.
  2. Pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse paste.
  3. Add in the lemon zest and juice. Slowly stream in the olive oil while the processor is running until the mixture is smooth and well combined.
  4. Transfer the pesto to a bowl and fold in the grated Parmesan cheese.
  5. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  6. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use. Can be stored for up to a week.

Share Your Results

Was it everything you dreamed it could be? Let me know how it turned out for you and share a picture on social media with the hashtag #LilyCooksNapa

Hello and welcome to Napa Home Chef! We're thrilled you're joining us to explore the vibrant world of wine country cooking. Our team has crafted bold, creative recipes inspired by Napa Valley's lush landscapes, bountiful harvests, and world-renowned wines. We hope you enjoy the journey with us!

Get ready to experience the rich flavors and unique culinary delights that embody the essence of wine country living. Happy cooking!

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