Best o’ Pesto: Once Upon a Pesto reveals unique recipes using local products

Best o' Pesto: Once Upon a Pesto reveals unique recipes using local products

Jessica Paholsky

In a short time, pesto has become a global phenomenon, spreading all over the world from its foundation on the Ligurian coast of Italy.

While basil is the most popular base for this sauce, pesto recipes can be made with many ingredients you may not have thought of before. The resulting brew may not even be green!

As the creator of Once Upon a Pesto, Dauphin County resident Jessica Paholsky specializes in unique pesto recipes. She often combines unknown products to create pesto flavor profiles that help home cooks travel the world through their taste buds.

Once Upon a Pesto, Paholsky’s website, was born while working at a publishing house and dreamed of writing a cookbook. Her inspiration comes from the idea that pesto is a process, not a recipe. It can be made by grinding or mixing ingredients together and is adaptable in different cultures.

Paholsky specializes in creating pesto recipes that go well with a signature dish, paying tribute to the history of specific geographic regions around the world.

“As I create my recipes, I discover the significance of a single ingredient in a particular culture or country,” she said. “From there, I research more about that food and why it plays a role in that culture. Then I use my culinary experience to combine flavors and textures, resulting in a brand new pesto.”

Since its inception in 2016, Once Upon a Pesto has grown into a fusion of food history, recipes and international cultures. Paholsky has also expanded her social media presence, growing her following to double-digit thousands.

“My goal for anyone consuming my content is to discover food history while also exploring countries that are new to them,” she said.

Summer, with its vegetable gardens and abundance of locally grown vegetables, is the perfect time to try a new pesto recipe, Paholsky said.

“Summer brings us the freshest asparagus and tender herbs here in central Pennsylvania,” she said. “So now is the time to prime those foods.”

With food sensitivities in mind, Paholsky likes to cultivate pesto recipes that take allergies into account and are versatile for the seasonal peaks. Bonus? Pesto sauces are a delicious way to hide vegetables from carnivores or picky eaters.

“You don’t have to be advanced in cooking to take advantage of my content,” Paholsky said. “It’s as much about the experience and learning as it is about the culinary base.”

Last summer – to develop her brand – Paholsky expanded her social media content to include videos, especially Instagram Lives, featuring foodies from all over the world. In every conversation there is a person who is an expert in the cuisine and culture of a particular region.

“I’ve received culinary gurus from even New Zealand and South Africa to Germany and Honduras,” Paholsky said. “They’re cookbook writers, TV show stars, and full-time food bloggers that I’m naturally connected to through our shared interests.”

That’s what Once Upon a Pesto is all about: connecting people around the world, uniting over a common food language and learning from each other.

For more information and recipes, visit† Follow the brand on Instagram @onceuponapasto to check out her Instagram lives and learn more about food history.

Sauce it!

Once Upon a Pesto specializes in unique pesto recipes, inspired by ingredients from around the world, including the ones below. Founder Jessica Paholsky says it’s easy to make these sauces — simply combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until the consistency you want.

asparagus pesto

Inspired by Peru

Peru is one of the world’s largest producers of asparagus. Irrigation methods allow farmers to grow the stem year-round and the plants are productive for 15 to 20 years. Half of their crops are green asparagus; the other half is white.


3 cups asparagus pieces

1/2 cup onion pieces

1/3 cup shelled pistachios

3 tablespoons ricotta cheese

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Swiss chard pesto

Inspired by Switzerland

Chard comes from the Latin word meaning ‘artichoke thistle’. And the use of the adjective Swiss is not clear because Swiss chard is not native to Switzerland. Instead, it comes from the Mediterranean coasts. The chlorophyll is a close relative of beets.


3 cups Swiss chard leaves

3 cloves of garlic

1/2 cup Gruyere cheese

1/3 cup walnut halves

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

Daikon Pesto

Inspired by Japan

Daikon is also known as “Japanese radish” or “true daikon”. It is a white radish and the name literally means “big carrot” in Japanese. There are many uses for the root vegetable in Japanese food culture, from pickling, simmering or drying daikon to grating into soy sauce.


2 cups Daikon pieces

1/4 cup dill weed

2 spring onions

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Yam Pesto

Inspired by Nigeria

In Nigeria, the yam is sometimes referred to as the ‘king of crops’. Not only do Nigerians appreciate the versatility of yams, but they also hold an annual celebration at the end of the farming season in honor of the tuber. There are dances, parades, costumes and many yam dishes to eat.


2 cups cooked yam pieces

3/4 cup cooked leek pieces

1/4 cup thyme leaves

1/3 cup pecan halves

1/3 cup orange juice

1/4 cup olive oil

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