Monday, December 20, 2010


106572297, Brian Yarvin /Photodisc

Pesto is a staple around the Smith household.

Surprisingly, both of my kids love it and it is a meal I am always guaranteed they will eat.

It is so easy and when homemade, it is quick, inexpensive and can be made healthy.

We are not big garlic connoisseurs around here, so I love being able to control that aspect of the meal, plus I love knowing that only fresh and healthy ingredients are in our dinner.

A basic pesto recipe looks something like this:

2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
2 T toasted pine nuts
1/2 c shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 clove of garlic (which I normally reduce or omit)
olive oil

I add everything except the olive oil into our food processor and begin to process.  I slowly stream in olive oil until it is the consistency I desire.  Many recipes call for up to a 1/2 cup.  I don't use nearly that much, as I don't like it to be a very thin mixture.  But, you can use as much as you desire!

And one of the most fun things about pesto is all of the ways you can vary it.  Here are some of my favorite variations:

- Arugula Pesto.  Swap the basil for arugula.  Delicious, peppery, and fresh tasting.  My kids love it!
- Broccoli Pesto.  Again, trade the basil for broccoli.  A fun change and a great way to get vitamin C, folic acid and potassium.
- Spinach Pesto.  Swap the basil for spinach or do a mixture of both.  A milder, yet delicous, earthy flavor.  And a great source of iron and vitamins.  My one year old doesn't do so great with leaves of spinach on his plate, but can scarf a whole plate of spinach pesto!
- Walnut Pesto.  Trade the pine nuts for walnuts.  Again, delicious and a great omega-3 punch!
- Sun Dried Tomato Pesto.  I love to add sun dried tomatoes to any of the above recipes to add a fresh flavor.  They are filled with lycopene, too!  If you use sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, you can reduce the amount of olive oil you add.

I love the make a double batch of pesto and freeze half of it.  It freezes wonderfully and it is a great start to a busy weeknight meal!

We love to serve it over whole grain pasta, on a pesto pizza, as a dip, with veggies or on crackers.


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