This is one of the most delicious ways I know to eat carrots. Many people don’t know that carrot tops are edible. I didn’t either until fairly recently. But they have a lovely fresh carrot aroma that doesn’t really compare to anything else. (If I could bottle up that perfume, I would spray it on myself everyday!) It seems only right to serve carrot top pesto slathered on top of the beloved root it sprung out of.
Carrots are a joy to grow and especially to pull up out of the ground. In the video, I tried to relay my love of that exquisite moment when the carrot comes loose and springs out of the soil.
There are so many different varieties of carrots to choose from and this recipe will benefit from a sweet, juicy, just-harvested carrot. I used two varieties: Atomic Red and Yaya. So hover around your local market until the new carrots are in season and stalk your closest farmer if you need to! The recipe calls for medium carrots but it’s lovely with smaller new spring carrots too, so use whatever you can get your hands on.
I wrote about the nutritional benefits of roasting carrots whole and unpeeled in a previous blogpost. But if you missed it, roasted whole carrots retain more of their nutrients than chopped carrots cooked using other methods. In fact roasting carrots in a little oil makes some of the nutrients more available for our bodies to absorb than eating them raw. A cool little nutrition factoid I learned from Jo Robinson’s fascinating book Eating On The Wild Side.
I like to use sunflower seeds in my pesto because it’s the most economical option and I find they taste just as good as walnuts or pine nuts. But really, feel free to sub any nuts you prefer in this recipe.
This recipe will make about 3 cups of pesto, so even after you smother your roasted carrots in pesto, you’ll still have some leftovers. The remaining pesto is delicious on fish, pasta, mashed potatoes, pizza, the sky’s the limit. May the carrot force be with you!
Roasted Carrots with Carrot Top Pesto
- For the Roasted Carrots:
- Around 16 medium freshly-harvested local carrots with their tops
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- For the Carrot Top Pesto:
- About 2 cups tightly-packed carrot tops (blanched for 30 seconds and drained)
- About 1 cup olive oil
- 2 large cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup freshly-grated parmesan
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Scrub the carrots well, rinse and dry. Do not peel. Trim off the carrot tops and reserve. Massage the olive oil onto the carrots so they are all evenly covered. Place the carrots in a single layer in a large oven-proof baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 35 minutes or until they are nicely golden and tender all the way through when pierced with a fork. (You can cover the baking dish with a lid for the first 15 minutes of cooking if you wish to retain some of the moisture from the carrots, but this is optional).
- Meanwhile, blanch the carrot tops by dunking them for 30 seconds into a pot of boiling water. (Some people skip this step, it’s entirely up to you). Remove them, rinse with cold water, and pat them dry. Remove any large tough stems, and place 2 cups of the leafy greens into a food processor with all the other ingredients except the olive oil, pulsing until roughly chopped. Gradually add in the olive oil, processing until the pesto reaches the desired consistency. (I like mine with small chunks, not too smooth, and a lot of olive oil. Feel free to adjust to your liking). Taste the pesto and if you wish, add a little more salt, olive oil, or lemon juice to suit your personal taste. Voila. Drizzle pesto on top of roasted carrots and serve. This is delicious served with a little labneh, ricotta or burrata served on top. Any remaining pesto should keep in the fridge for about a week.
Yield: Roasted Carrots with Carrot Top Pesto
Aube Giroux is a food writer and filmmaker who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.
Aube is a passionate organic gardener and home cook who likes to share the stories of how food gets to our dinner plates. Her work has been shown on television and at international film festivals. Her web series has been nominated for multiple James Beard Awards for Best Video Webcast (On Location). In 2012, she was the recipient of Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog award in the video category.