Quick and delicious, pesto is a staple in most kitchens. Originating from Genoa in northern Italy, not too far from WONDER’s home away from home Lucca!
Traditionally made using basil as the foundation, with pine nuts, parmesan cheese, or hard cheese like Pecorino, basil, garlic, and olive oil – it’s oh so simple and versatile.
The exciting thing about pesto recipes is the ability to mix it up — so instead of using fresh basil, you can get creative with any green or herb you have an excess of such as coriander, kale, rocket, and spinach.
Adding different leafy greens and herbs to your pesto is an excellent way to boost the nutritional value of your meal and use seasonal greens.
A big fan of pesto, our senior teacher Sally says she rarely uses a recipe, aiming more for the mad scientist approach to cooking and offers up some ideas on pesto variations… but for those who like to measure things out, you’ll also find a brilliant foundation recipe below that you can begin to alter and adapt as your confidence grows. The first tip Sally mentions is that for a super smooth Pesto use a Nutri Bullet or for a more rustic version with chunks and texture the go-to is a food processor.
1. HOW TO MAKE PESTO WITH SPINACH
Spinach is a nutrition workhorse, packing phytonutrients, such as beta-carotene and lutein, and supplying several antioxidants and vitamins.
Blend fresh basil with spinach, garlic, hemp seeds, walnuts, olive oil, nutritional yeast, and lemon juice. Nutritional Yeast is a great substitute for Parmesan because it has a cheesy flavor and gives a boost of B vitamins. Instead of pine nuts, hemp seeds and walnuts deliver a big dose of heart-loving omega-3 fatty acids.
2. HOW TO MAKE PESTO WITH KALE
Kale is king in the nutrition books for many reasons. This wonderfully dense green is rich in fiber, iron, vitamins A and C, calcium, and cancer-preventing glucosinolates. Because kale has a very dense texture Sally suggests massaging it with olive oil before you combine it with the other pesto ingredients.
Also, mix up your kale pesto recipe by blending in cashews! They add a creaminess and almost decadent flavor to your sauce. It also makes your pesto incredibly filling, so you don’t have to worry about going overboard. You can add a dash of red pepper flakes to your pesto sauce to give it a kick of capsaicin, a compound in peppers that has been shown to relieve pain and boost your metabolism.
3. HOW TO MAKE PESTO WITH ROCKET
Rocket’s naturally peppery taste and soft leaves make it a wonderful addition to any pesto sauce. The popular green supplies vitamins A and K and folate as well as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Rocket also belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables, so it has cancer-fighting properties. Because of its spicy flavor, you can use Basil instead of basil in your pesto.
Just like any green pesto, blend the rocket with either walnuts or roasted pinenuts, garlic, and parmesan (or nutritional yeast to impart a cheesy flavor if you’re dairy-free) And if you dare to turn up the heat, adding a dash of cayenne pepper to make sure the sauce is lit.
THE FOUNDATION BASIL PESTO RECIPE
1/2 cup cashews soaked in water for 1/4 hours
2 medium shallots peeled
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 cups of basil leaves
3 Tablespoons of olive oil
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons of grated parmesan
Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until creamy and smooth. Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to one week or cover with a layer of oil and freeze.