Pesto is an Italian basil sauce traditionally made with basil (yes, the main ingredient), garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese. The cheese provides a strong umami flavour (umami = savoury, deep, “body”), and the crushed basil leaves release that amazing sweet and anise-like aroma. You can make it by pounding the ingredients with a mortar and pestle, or go modern and blitz with a blender or food processor.
Here, I’ve made mine with almonds and walnuts instead of pine nuts – mainly because I tend to stock those nuts for handy snacks anyway and it’s just another way of enjoying them. All these nuts are great sources of heart-friendly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, the ones that reduce your cholesterol levels, combat inflammation and aid cell wellbeing and regeneration.
Another great bonus – for non-home herb garden growers, basil needs to be bought in bunches despite recipes only calling for a handful of leaves at a time. Pesto is a convenient way of using up your leftover basil from a spag bol (like this mushroomy meat-free version) or pasta bake.
7 ways to enjoy pesto (one to try each day of the week!)
- Dollop onto quiches or savoury tarts
- Instead of tomato paste on pizza bases
- Stirred through fettuccine, penne or even gnocchi dishes – delicious if you add broccoli
- Sauce for your next burger – add your pattie, cheese, rocket and sundried tomatoes (tomatoes are a second umami-rich source) all on a wholegrain bun
- Add to meatballs
- Toss through your next salad
- Marinade your seafood – a few tablespoons of pesto + lemon juice (this works for lamb and chicken kebabs too
Serves: 10 (approx 1-2 tablespoons each)
Costs: $5.21 ($0.52 per serve)
Cooking time: 5-10 mins
- 1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp dry roasted almonds, unsalted (approx half a small handful)
- 1/4 cup walnuts, unsalted (approx one small handful)
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
Let’s get cooking:
- Place basil leaves and garlic into a blender or food processor. Blitz until it forms a chunky paste.
- Add almonds and walnuts and blitz again.
- While the motor is running, gradually add the olive oil.
- Stir through the parmesan cheese. Add a few tablespoons of water if you prefer your pesto runnier.
- If you like, add a squirt of lemon or lime juice or zest for a zing.
This pesto is a great source of monounsaturated fats and some polyunsaturated fats.
|Total fat (g)||11.3|
|– Saturated fat (g)||1.8|
|– Sugars (g)||0.2|