I've been on a pesto kick lately, adding this sauce to everything from my morning eggs to fish. I love pesto because it's extremely versatile. A traditional pesto is typically made with basil and pine nuts but you can really use any green or nut you have on hand. I've made pesto with spinach, watercress, kale, arugula, broccoli, and sorrel. Pine nuts also can be a bit pricey so feel free to substitute with other nuts such as walnuts, almonds, or pistachios.
I strongly recommend that you soak your nuts before using them in a pesto. Nuts naturally have protective chemicals called phytates. This compound helps keep the nut safe until they can find water, soil, and sunlight to grow. Unfortunately, humans cannot properly digest phytic acid and phytate rich food inhibits other nutrients such as, iron and calcium from being absorbed. Nuts also contain enzyme inhibitors which may cause digestive stress. However, when you soak your nuts, these enzymes are released, allowing for proper digestion and increased nutrient absorption. Almonds, pecans and walnuts can be soaked overnight and cashews should be soaked for 4 hours. Other nuts like pine nuts and macadamia nuts should not be soaked. For a pound of nuts add 1 tablespoon of high quality salt.
Here are four simple pesto recipes that are extremely versatile. I like to make a big batch of pesto and then freeze the rest in ice cube trays for later use. This creates perfect portions to use for future cooking.
- 4 cups basil
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Black pepper to taste
n a food processor combine olive oil, basil, pine nuts, salt, and garlic. Blend until paste forms. Add the Parmesan cheese and pulse until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste if needed.
Kale Walnut Pesto
- 2 cups packed kale
- 3/4 cup toasted walnuts
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon white or yellow miso
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 6 to 7 minutes, until lightly golden. Blend all ingredients together in a food processor. Taste and adjust adding more salt, olive oil, and pepper as necessary.
Pea Mint Pesto
- 2 cups fresh peas
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
- 1/2 cup mint leaves, loosely packed
- 1/4 cup pecorino romano cheese
- 2 tablespoons whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Bring a small saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add peas and cook for 2 minutes. Drain peas then let your peas cool by running under cool water before making pesto.
Once peas are cooled add all ingredients to blender. Blend for about 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl as necessary.
This recipe is great on top of toasted crostini!
What do you like to make with pesto? Share some of your favorite pesto dishes.
- 2 cups packed cilantro
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup soaked almonds
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a food processor pulse cilantro, olive oil, almonds, lime juice, lime zest, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.