Looking for radish recipes? Make radish greens pesto and this tasty, perfect-for-summer pasta salad.
One fine day a couple years ago, we visited friends who live a bit north of Amsterdam. They treated us to a (typical Dutch) boat ride and homemade feasts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
They also took us to their local garden and showed us their beautiful, bountiful self-grown fruits and vegetables. The surprising highlight was the radishes they fed us straight from the dirt. Crisp and peppery and refreshing: we were hooked.
This summer, we’re consistently stocked. There’s one special farmer at our neighborhood market in Rotterdam whose bright, beautiful bunches of radishes we can’t resist. They’re two for 1.50 EUR so we always buy two. And they come with their greens.
Are radish leaves edible?
We must confess that we did have to do a quick google to make sure you actually want to eat radish greens. You do. They have a 90% familiar taste, but the 10% is noticeable: somewhere between arugula and spinach. Texture-wise, they are a bit prickly, so they’re not a great salad green.
Usually we just sauté them (Justin especially likes them with garlic and chili flake), but we also recently invested in a new food processor. So we decided to inaugurate it with some radish greens pesto.
Radish greens pesto ingredients
Pesto is easy (especially once you have a new food processor… woohoo!). It seems a bit silly to write a recipe for pesto, but radish greens are maybe a little less common ingredient, so we wanted to share what we paired it with.
For nuts, we use almonds. Full disclosure, it’s what we had in the house the first time around. But we also like that they’re relatively mild. Radish leaves are a bit bitter, so we wanted a nut to mellow that out a bit.
We do not add cheese to this pesto. We honestly wanted to try it without so that the radish leaf taste wouldn’t be overpowered. We think it’s great. The lack of cheese makes it vegan and healthier. Plus it’s a bit more versatile, and we think it would go especially well on fish. If we were to add it to hot pasta, we would likely add some cheese to the dish as a whole.
We do add garlic because we are garlic lovers. To brighten the pesto up, we add lemon and parsley and of course salt. We do not add pepper to the pesto itself because the radish leaves are peppery themselves.
Pasta salad recipe tips
Pasta salad is also easy! It’s also a great summer dish, especially served cold. The fun thing about pasta salad is that you can put anything in it. We prefer crispy vegetables which contrast the soft pasta.
For main vegetables for this iteration we chose snow peas (sugar snaps would be great too) and… wait for it… RADISHES. We sliced the radishes fairly thin and cut the snow peas in half or thirds depending on their size. For more flavorful accoutrements, we chose scallions and parsley, and minced them both.
We always have cooked chicken in the fridge, so we threw some in. If you want to make a vegan pasta salad though, just leave it out. If you do that, increase the amount of radishes and snow peas to bulk it up more.
We often make a vinaigrette to dress pasta salad. Our radish greens pesto is not liquidy, so we add olive oil and reserved pasta water to loosen things up and dress things fully. We use 1/8 cup of pasta water, but we always reserve more in case more is needed.
Only add the parsley, salt, and pepper after you’ve dressed everything else to make their flavors go the furthest.
If you prefer your pasta salad warm, you can eat it now. We prefer ours cold, especially in summer. So we put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Then, when it’s time to serve, we add another dollop of pesto, a drizzle of olive oil, and a little more salt and pepper. If you really like lemon, you can add a squirt of that too. Either way it will be tasty and filling.
A note on washing radish greens
There is no sugarcoating it, if you’re buying radishes with their tops, chances are they’re going to be filthy. Radishes themselves are easy to wash. The leaves take a little more effort.
You wash them and wash them and wash them again and it seems there’s still dirt coming off. Just tell yourself it’s worth it.
We like to put the bunch into the sink and fill it with a couple inches of water. We twist the radishes off their stem and set them aside whole (we don’t cut them until right before we eat them).
We then agitate the leaves in the water so the dirt falls to the bottom. We drain the sink and do it again. Then finally, we rinse the leaves one more time in small batches and dry them in a salad spinner.
Radish Greens Pesto
- Leaves from 2 bunches of radishes
- 1 cup almonds, roughly chopped
- 1-2 garlic cloves, quartered
- Handful of parsley
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 pound short cut pasta (we like bowties)
- 1 cup radishes, sliced
- 1 cup snow peas, halved
- 1 small green onion, minced
- 5-6 oz cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1/4 cup radish greens pesto
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/8 cup reserved pasta water
- Handful of parsley, minced
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8-1/4 tsp black pepper
Pasta Salad Toppings
- 1 Tbsp pesto per plate
- Drizzle of olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Make the radish greens pesto
- Wash the radish leaves thoroughly to remove all the grit and dirt. And then dry them.
- Add radish leaves, almonds, garlic, parsley, and half the olive oil to a food processor and give it a zip.
- Scrape down the sides and add the rest of the olive oil, lemon juice, and salt to the bowl and process until it is nicely incorporated.
Make the pasta salad
- Prep all the veg and chicken per the ingredients list. Put everything except the parsley into a big bowl.
- Cook pasta In salted boiling water according to package or as you like it.
- Reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water.
- Drain pasta, rinse in cold water, and add it to the big bowl.
- Put the pesto and olive oil on top of the pasta. Add 1/8 cup of pasta water and mix everything all together. (If you need a little more water, add a little more!)
- Add the parsley, salt, and pepper to the pasta salad and mix it up.
- Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- When it’s time to serve, mix the pasta salad one more time in the bowl.
- Plate it up with another dollop of pesto, a drizzle of oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
- If you’re making the pesto at the same time as the pasta salad, you can obviously put the pasta water on to boil as you begin to make the pesto.
- To wash the radish leaves, we fill our sink with water and stir them around. We do this twice. Then we rinse them one more time before drying in a salad spinner.
- Depending on how large your food processor is, you may need to add the radish leaves in batches. Ours is small, so we did it in three.
- We usually cook our pasta al dente, but for pasta salad, we like it a bit softer.
- We always reserve more pasta water than a recipe calls for... just in case.
- If you like lemon, you can also serve the pasta salad with a squirt of lemon as well.