The Easy Sauce To Use Up Your Wilting Lettuce

Whether you opt for crunchy Romaine, fluffy Boston, curly frisée, or peppery arugula, chances are that unless you use that head of lettuce all at once, it'll probably be forgotten in the fridge. Growing more shriveled with each passing day, we've all been guilty of letting leafy greens go to waste. Fortunately, when it comes to wilted lettuce, the leaves can easily be turned into a delicious sauce before having to be tossed.

In order to avoid food waste, starting with quality produce is necessary. Crisp and vibrantly colored greens will last longer than leaves already starting to brown. Storing fresh lettuce properly (in the crisper or wrapped in a paper towel) is also essential in extending shelf life. However, if you notice that the greens have started to wilt, then you can dunk them into an ice bath to help firm them up again. Although the lettuce won't snap exactly back into its original shape, it can give it some structure. But, why not just toss lettuce that's past its prime?

Rather than contribute to the 40% of food waste generated by Americans (via FDA), we can take steps to minimize that figure. For instance, Edible Manhattan recommends disregarding best-before dates in favor of using our senses to determine spoilage, along with tweaking recipes to maximize perishable ingredients. That said, we've found an especially great way to repurpose less-than-crisp lettuce that's no longer ideal for a salad — make a leafy green pesto sauce.

Yes, lettuce pesto is a thing

Aside from braising or juicing wilted greens, Love Food Hate Waste offers food waste warriors an alternative solution of making pesto. Despite the fact that it might sound odd, it isn't that strange of an idea if you think of lettuce as a giant leafy herb. Working with any variety that's nearing the end of its lifespan, swapping the greens with basil is a great way to reinvent your favorite pesto recipe without changing the composition and flavor of the sauce too drastically.

An effortless and waste-free recipe, the BBC advises using a food processor to blend together wilted arugula, Parmigiano Reggiano, pine nuts, and olive oil until smooth. Alternatively, for a loose rendition of pesto sauce, Food Network advises pulsing toasted sesame seeds, Romaine lettuce, and Asiago, with oil and then stirring in chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Forgo the cheese in either recipe, and lettuce pesto can also easily become suitable for vegans also.

Not sure how to use your lettuce pesto? The simple answer would be to incorporate it into risotto or pasta. For other Italian-inspired uses, the sauce can be a great base for pizza or crostini. But, you can also top burgers, dress roasted vegetables, marinate pork chops, stir a dollop into soup, or even fry an egg with pesto for a burst of herbaceous flavor. Shelf Cooking even suggests transforming lettuce pesto into a vinaigrette for salads — talk about coming full circle!