chimichurri breakfast sandwiches photo by carmen troesser

6 ways to take chimichurri to the next level

I work on my chimichurri the same way other people work on their biceps. Each repetition is an opportunity for improvement; each recipe tweak a chance to achieve parsley perfection. When I’m not making the verdant, garlicky sauce, I’m talking about it – leading to more breath mint offers than I should probably admit.

Much more than a sidekick for Argentine steak, chimichurri is a wallop of fresh, fierce flavor that transforms even the most pedestrian of meals (ahem, rotisserie chicken) into a colorful taste explosion. And all you need is the freshest parsley you can find, a glug of olive oil, a handful of garlic and enough aggression for productive knife skills.

If basil is the pillar of pesto, parsley is the heart of chimichurri. Choose flat-leaf parsley rather than curly, which runs a little bitter. Individually pinch off the thick stems below the leaves, or if that seems excruciating to you, just give the bunch a whack in the middle and move on to oh-so-finely chopping your ingredients.

Deciding how to cut up the chimichurri components is the only challenging part of the recipe. Traditionally, all ingredients are minced by hand. Running a knife through the parsley and aromatics doesn’t take much time and yields a colorful salsa that looks authentic and artisanal. On the other hand, you can whip up a smooth, beautifully blended chimichurri with a few pulses of a food processor. 

I let the end use determine my method. If the chimichurri plays the starring role of the meal, say, drizzled over Argentine steak, I’ll hand-chop the ingredients. But if it’s in the background as a marinade, salad dressing or pasta sauce, a quick whirl in the food processor gets the job done quickly and easily. 

Once you master the basic recipe, feel free to riff by playing with additional flavors. Cilantro adds brightness. Basil makes it a culinary crossover event. Diced tomato and red bell pepper yield chimichurri rojo, which is my favorite on fresh fish fillets. Use smoked paprika, sweet paprika, cumin, olives or capers for finesse. 

There is no wrong way to make chimichurri and an infinite number of ways to make it right. You may want to consider keeping a little notebook in your back pocket for all of the new chimichurri ideas that will pop into your head. Also, perhaps, a stick of gum.

basic green chimichurri // photo by carmen troesser

Basic Green Chimichurri

If using a food processor, simply place all ingredients except for the olive oil in the bowl. Pulse until the ingredients are finely chopped, pausing occasionally to scrape down the sides, then slowly pour the oil in with the food processor running.

1 cup

2 bunches (about 5 oz.) flat-leaf parsley
3 sprigs oregano
3 garlic cloves
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. fleur de sel
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
½ cup olive oil

• Cut the stems off the parsley and oregano just below the leaves and discard. Finely chop the herbs and the garlic. 

• Place the herbs and garlic in a medium glass bowl. Add the vinegar, lemon juice, salt and red pepper flakes, and stir well with a fork. Add the olive oil and stir again. Taste and adjust seasonings. Refrigerate overnight before using. Chimichurri will keep refrigerated in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Basic Red Chimichurri

Make your green chimichurri by hand, then add finely diced tomatoes and red bell pepper for chimichurri rojo. Substitute smoked paprika for sweet if you prefer.

1½ cups

1 cup basic green chimichurri
2 Roma tomatoes, seeds removed, finely diced
½ red bell pepper, finely diced
¼ tsp. sweet paprika

• Combine all ingredients in a medium glass bowl and stir well. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Easy Weeknight Chimichurri Pasta

4 to 6 servings

1 lb. whole-wheat penne pasta
½ cup basic green or red chimichurri
¼ cup shredded Parmesan, plus more for garnish
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 to 3 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 large tomato, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano (optional)

• Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 2 tablespoons cooking water and drain. 

• In a large glass bowl, whisk together the pasta water, chimichurri, Parmesan and lemon juice. Add the pasta and chicken and toss well. Gently fold in the tomato, then add salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with additional Parmesan and fresh oregano, if desired. Serve hot or cold.

marinated grilled skirt steak with green chimichurri // photo by carmen troesser

Marinated Grilled Skirt Steak 

Turn leftovers into an easy appetizer by serving the grilled steak on dollar rolls dolloped with either red or green chimichurri.

4 servings

1 1½- to 2-lb. outside skirt steak
½ cup basic green or red chimichurri, plus more for serving
½ cup olive oil
2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• Cut the steak in half so it fits in a glass baking dish without folding.

• In a small bowl, combine the chimichurri, olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt. 

• Pour the marinade over the meat in the baking dish, making sure it’s evenly covered. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

• Remove the steak from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. Prepare a grill for high, direct heat. 

• Blot the steak dry with paper towels and season with the pepper and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Grill the steak 3 minutes per side. To serve, cut the steak against the grain and garnish with additional chimichurri.

Chimichurri Brekky Sammie

1 serving

1 Tbsp. basic green chimichurri
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
3 tsp. unsalted butter, divided
1 ciabatta roll, halved
1 large egg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp. shredded mozzarella or Gruyere

• Combine the chimichurri and mayonnaise in a small bowl and set aside. 

• Spread 1 teaspoon butter on each cut side of the ciabatta roll. Toast butter side-down in a heavy skillet over medium heat, about 3 minutes. 

• Remove the roll, reduce the heat to low and melt the remaining 1 teaspoon butter in the hot skillet. Crack the egg into the skillet, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until the egg white is opaque and the yolk reaches desired doneness, about 1 minute.

• While the egg is cooking, spread the chimichurri aioli on the toasted ciabatta. Sprinkle with the cheese, top with the fried egg and serve immediately.

Simple Baked Fish with Chimichurri Rojo

The cook time depends on the fillets’ thickness, so judge doneness by how the fish looks, rather than the clock.

4 servings

1 lb. boneless, skinless halibut, mahi mahi or tilapia fillets
1 Tbsp. olive oil or melted unsalted butter
Kosher salt, to taste
½ cup basic red chimichurri
1 lemon, quartered, for serving

• Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Spray a glass baking dish with cooking spray. 

• Place the fish in the baking dish in a single layer. Brush the fillets with oil or butter and sprinkle with the salt, then the chimichurri. Bake until the fish is opaque and flaky, about 10 minutes. Serve with fresh lemon wedges.

Sweet Potato Wedges with Chimichurri Dip

Mix the chimichurri with 2 tablespoons mayonnaise for an extra indulgent dip.

2 to 4 servings

1½ to 2 lbs. sweet potatoes, skin on
2 Tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. smoked paprika
¼ cup basic green chimichurri, for dipping

• Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.

• Slice the potatoes into ½-inch-thick wedges. Combine the potato wedges, olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and smoked paprika in a large mixing bowl and mix until well coated. 

• Place the wedges in a single layer on the hot baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes, then flip. Bake until the second side is brown and the wedges are soft, about 5 to 10 more minutes. Serve hot with the chimichurri on the side.

Kellie Hynes is a longtime contributor for Sauce Magazine. 

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