2019 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE – Pesto: The Modern Mother Sauce With Leaning Eggplant Towers Recipe

by Valerie Gray, From Val's Kitchen

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2019 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE - Pesto: The Modern Mother Sauce

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I don’t know much about pesto, mainly because I don’t use it as often as I could. As a result, I never fully realized there were so many things you could do with it. Pesto: The Modern Mother Sauce shares a lot of variations for pesto, as well as different ways to use it that one might not usually think of. This cookbook would make a great holiday gift for anyone who wants to change up their sauce game, as well as their pastas, sandwiches and so much more. The Leaning Eggplant Towers recipe below is great for the holiday season because it’s simple but a bit out of the ordinary.

Chapters include:

  • The Modern Mother Sauce (Pesto Basics)
  • Eggs and Toasts
  • Pastas and Pizzas
  • Sandwiches, Paninis, Bruschetta, and Crostini
  • Appetizers and Small Bites
  • Soups
  • Vegetables
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Beef, Pork, and Lamb.

2019 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE - Pesto: The Modern Mother Sauce

Pesto: The Modern Mother Sauce: More Than 90 Inventive Recipes That Start with Homemade Pestos

  • Author: Leslie Lennox
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Agate Surrey (May 14, 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1572842687
  • ISBN-13: 978-1572842687
  • Purchase on Amazon

Pesto: The Modern Mother Sauce teaches you to invent your own pesto combinations and to use pesto as a building block for a variety of meals. Pesto doesn’t have to be an occasional add-on—it can elevate any meal and become a part of your regular kitchen repertoire.

Most people are familiar with classic Italian pesto, a green sauce made from basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt, and olive oil. But Leslie Lennox, founder of the award-winning artisanal pesto company Hope’s Gardens, shows us that pesto need not be limited to its original ingredients―and that creative pestos can serve as building blocks for all manner of flavorful dishes, just like any good “mother sauce.”

In Pesto: The Modern Mother Sauce, Lennox introduces readers to a new way to think about pesto. In the right proportion, almost any combination of plants, garlic, nuts, cheese, seasoning, and oil can make a delicious sauce―especially when you’re using what’s on hand, what’s local, and what’s in season.

Lennox offers up several favorite pesto recipes, and then takes these simple sauces a step further. They serve as the building blocks for 97 kitchen-tested recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and more. From risotto and ramen to chicken fajitas and swordfish kebabs, everything tastes better with pesto!

About the Author

Leslie Lennox is a recipe developer, cooking instructor, urban gardener, and founder of Hope’s Gardens, an artisanal condiment company based in Atlanta. A former fashion stylist, she worked with Vera Wang at Vogue, spent time as an art photographer, and founded a handcrafted products and greeting card company, selling her designs internationally through Barneys, Papyrus, and many other retailers. She lives in New York City with her husband, Dave. This is her first cookbook.

You can learn more about these titles and others on the Agate Publishing website. You can also keep up with Agate Publishing on social media, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Here’s a recipe for  from the cookbook, excerpted with permission from the publisher.

FROM VAL'S KITCHEN 2019 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE - Pesto: The Modern Mother Sauce With Leaning Eggplant Towers Recipe


Reprinted with permission from Pesto: The Modern Mother Sauce by Leslie Lennox, Agate Surrey, 2019. Photo © Leslie Lennox.

Makes 2 entrée servings or 4 first course servings

Ready in 75 minutes

My husband, Dave, has had great success growing different varieties of eggplant in our garden. This recipe is a wonderful reinvention of classic eggplant parmesan, although ours involves no frying, which translates to great flavor and fewer calories—win-win! If you are using this recipe as a main course, try making a double-stacked tower. Another way to serve this is on ciabatta bread for a sandwich on the go.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 medium eggplants, sliced crosswise into a total of 8 (½-inch-thick) medallions
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced crosswise into 8 (½-inch-thick) medallions
  • 1 large white or red onion, sliced crosswise into 8 (½-inch-thick) medallions
  • 1 (1-pound) mozzarella ball, sliced crosswise into 8 (½-inch-thick) medallions
  • ½ cup pesto
  • 2 cups quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 4 ounces capellini


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly grease a 9 × 13-inch oval gratin or baking dish. Set both aside.

Brush the olive oil on both sides of each eggplant slice. Season with salt and pepper. Spread out the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, flip the slices, and continue baking for another 15 minutes. Remove the eggplant from the oven, but keep the oven on.

Transfer the eggplant slices to the prepared gratin dish. On each one, stack a tomato slice, onion slice, and mozzarella slice; you will have 8 individual stacks. Top each stack with 2 teaspoons pesto. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cherry tomatoes to the gratin dish, around the stacks.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the towers are slightly soft.

While the towers bake, bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the capellini and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water to use just in case your cooked pasta needs some hydration, then drain the noodles.

Divide the capellini among two or four plates and place one or two eggplant towers on each. Spoon the cherry tomatoes and juice from the baking dish over the eggplant stacks and pasta. Serve.

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Sapana November 5, 2019 - 11:06 am

I love pesto and always looking for new ways to use it. This cookbook sounds like the perfect gift this holiday season!

Katie November 5, 2019 - 11:20 am

Made this for the family and it was a hit!

Beth November 5, 2019 - 11:22 am

We love all things eggplant! This is such a delicious way to prepare it! Thanks!

Shadi Hasanzadenemati November 5, 2019 - 11:54 am

We made this the other day and everyone loved it.

Heidy L. McCallum November 5, 2019 - 12:17 pm

Pesto is a wonderful addition to so many recipes and we often use it. Thanks for sharing I look forward to making your recipe for pesto.


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