Pesto is full of healthy ingredients like basil and garlic, and it”s one of the most versatile sauces to stock in your kitchen. A little bit goes a long way — even a dollop of pesto can perk up your chicken, pasta, burgers, salad, and veggie dishes.
What is Pesto?
The word pesto means “pounded” in Italian, as the original savory sauce was made with a mortar and pestle. The traditional Italian pesto contains basil, garlic, grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, olive oil, and pine nuts. These days, people use the word “pesto” loosely and make it with cilantro, parsley, and different types of nuts. The variations are endless.
If you want to lighten up the traditional pesto, you can halve the amount of olive oil and substitute with broth, or omit the cheese if you are vegan. Even without making these substitutions, use pesto as a spice mixture (not a sauce) and it”s completely skinny-jeans-approved.
Basil has vitamins A, C, and K and research has shown that is has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Garlic is heart-healthy and full of antioxidants, and olive oil is made of the essential “good fats.”
If you have access to super fresh basil, then it”s worthwhile to make this pesto at home. It”s a “cook once and eat 20 times” type of special sauce. You can also freeze your homemade pesto.
Homemade Pesto Recipe
4 cups gently packed fresh basil leaves
3 cloves minced garlic
3 tablespoons roasted pine nuts
¼ cup Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
¾ cup good extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
Instructions: In a blender, mix all ingredients except for cheese and oil. When almost blended, add cheese into mix and combine until smooth. Stream olive oil and blend until the pesto looks uniform. You can also make this easily with a hand blender in a taller jar.
Pesto is packed with flavor, so you need less than a tablespoon to add big personality to your meal. For a good store-bought pesto, try Roland pesto or Seggiano raw basil pesto.
Per tablespoon 70 calories, 0g carbohydrates, 8g fat, 1g protein, 55mg sodium, 0g sugar
Turkey Pesto Meatballs
This recipe is a favorite of one of our WorldLifestyle editors, and it makes delicious, moist, and gently flavored meatballs every time.
Mix 1 pound of ground turkey with a ½-cup of Panko breadcrumbs, ¼-cup pesto, 1 beaten egg, and 4 tablespoons milk. Form into meatballs. Cook to finish by simmering in your favorite tomato sauce.
Italian PLT Sandwich
Spread pesto on toasted bread. Layer with prosciutto, sliced tomato, arugula, and fresh mozzarella.
Green Goddess Pasta
Toss ¾-pound cooked whole wheat pasta with 4 tablespoons pesto, ¼-cup reserved pasta water, sliced grape tomatoes, shelled steamed edamame, and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.
Pesto Yogurt Dip
Stir 1 tablespoon of pesto into ½-cup of nonfat plain Greek yogurt and ½-cup low-fat sour cream. Use as a dip for vegetables or pita chips.