When you think of pesto, you probably envision the traditional pesto alla genovese: mashed basil leaves with tons of olive oil, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese… which probably means you’re not eating much of it these days, what with dairy being fooda non grata (yes, I made that up!) on our dino-chow menus.
I’ve got good news: There are lots of tasty ways to make pesto varieties that don’t involve any cheese at all. Alert your taste buds!
Top Five Things You Should Know About Pesto
1. The word pesto comes from pesta which means “to pound, to crush” which makes pesto the ideal food for superheroes such as yourself who are accustomed to crushing workouts and self-doubt on a regular basis.
2. Pesto is basically just a paste made from herbs, garlic, and oil. With nuts, it’s pesto. Without nuts, it’s pistou (French!)
3. In Sicily, pesto alla siciliana adds tomatoes; in Calabria the pesto alla calabrese is made spicy with the addition of roasted bell peppers and black pepper. In Germany, ramsons leaves are used instead of basil. (What the devil is ramsons? It’s a wild relative of chives.)
4. Pesto will turn bitter if cooked, so mix it into warm foods off the stove, rather than during cooking.
5. It’s the simplest recipe you’ll ever encounter. Just throw the ingredients into a blender and push the button. Less than 5 minutes to magic.
My Favorite Pesto Recipes
Directions for all:
Puree all ingredients in a blender or food processor to desired consistency. Be grateful you have a nose; your house will smell awesome! Allow flavors to meld for about 30 minutes before eating. These will all taste fresh and delicious for 3-4 days.
Mediterranean Mint & Parsley Pesto
Fresh and sunny. It’s like a mini Greek vacation in a taste sensation.
1 bunch of fresh mint (about 1.5 cups)
1 big handful of fresh parsley (about 1 cup)
juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of red pepper flakes
Pistou de Provence
Ooh la la!
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 1/2 cups basil leaves, torn into pieces (2 ounces)
1/4 cup coarsely grated plum tomatoes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
I Love My Nose Paleo Pesto
Your traditional Italian deliciousness. Toss with shredded sauteed zucchini and fresh room temperature tomato slices.
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
2-3 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups loosely packed mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons lime rind
1/4 teaspoon dried ginger or 1 teaspoon minced fresh
1/4 teaspoon salt
So.. what can you do with this aromatic bounty?
1. Dollop on grilled chicken, lamb, shrimp, or fish.
2. Stir into hot, cooked vegetables: sliced zucchini or yellow squash, chopped broccoli, mashed cauliflower, sauteed baby spinach, spaghetti squash, mashed eggplant.
3. Make salads! Tomato & cucumber salad: Toss finely chopped tomatoes and cukes with 1/2 teaspoon pesto, 1 tablespoon EVOO, and 2 teaspoons lemon juice.
4. Saute fresh sliced tomatoes and while still warm, toss with pesto then pile on top of cold baby spinach.
5. Saute fresh zucchini noodles and while still warm, toss with pesto, then pile on a bed of spaghetti squash and sprinkle with pine nuts.
6. Toss with green and black olives and nosh… or let the olives marinate in the pesto overnight, then add sliced olives to veggies or grilled meats.
7. Stir a spoonful into hot vegetable soup or plain broth for a cup of warm love.
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