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Cooking with herbs at Monk Botanical Gardens!

MCPL cooking event at Monk Gardens

July 24, 2016

Last month, MCPL partnered with the Monk Botanical Gardens in Wausau to offer a two-part class focused on growing and cooking with your own herbs. During part one of the class, a local Master Gardener volunteer helped folks at our Wausau Headquarters plant their own herb container gardens. A week later, during part two, participants descended upon the Gardens' newly-completed outdoor kitchen garden to learn how to cook with the herbs they planted.

Local chef Brian Freund led part two of the class and taught attendees how to make three different recipes using the herbs that will eventually grow in their container gardens. The first is for chimichurri, a sauce or marinade made from fresh herbs and typically use on grilled meats. The second recipe, basil pesto, is typically served with pasta. The final recipe is for pasta with herb pan sauce.

For anyone who was unable to attend the class, we've included those recipes below. Give the recipes a try, and let us know in the comments how they turned out!


  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley and/or cilantro
  • 1 TBS. minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 like juice
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and use immediately.

Basil Pesto

  • 2 cups chopped basil
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pine nuts
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (add to more to thin to desired consistency)
  • 2 gloves minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients well and serve.

Pasta with Herb Pan Sauce

  • 3 TBS. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper 
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 TBS. herb mix*
  • 1 TBS. unsalted butter
  • 6-8 ounces pasta
  • 1/2 fresh lemon
  • Grated Parmesan (if desired)

*Herb mix: 

  • 4 parts chopped parsley
  • 2 parts rosemary and oregano
  • 1 part fennel and thyme
  • Garnish with chives (to desired taste)
  • (If you do not have one or more of these herbs, you may substitute them out for something else you have on-hand.)

Start cooking pasta in salted boiling water in pot on stovetop. Meanwhile, heat oil on medium-low heat in a large saute pan. Add onion and red pepper flakes to the pan and cook until they start to soften and lighten in color. Add garlic to the pan and cook until the onions are transluscent and the garlic starts to brown. 

Add 1 TBS. pasta water (or beer or wine, if desired) to deglaze pan and cook until liquid is evaporated. Turn the heat to low. Add herbs and drained cooked pasta to the pan. Stir to thoroughly incorporate ingredients together in the pan.

Turn off heat and add butter and juice from lemon to the pan. Stir thoroughly to incorporate. Salt and pepper to taste, then serve.

This dish is great for serving alongside grilled or roasted chicken, pork, or Italian sausage. Since pan sauces can vary based on what you have available and on-hand, ingredients can be easily added or substituted. Capers can also be added to the sauce when serving with seafood, or instance, or cream can be added and reduced to make a white sauce. 

Events Food

image credit: Image by Marathon County Public Library staff.