Sunday, April 10, 2016

How to Make the Perfect Fresh, Delicious, Healthy Pesto

Pesto is a mainstay in my kitchen. Not only does it pack a ton of flavor, it is a nutritional powerhouse. The simple ingredients, including basil, garlic, olive oil, nuts & seeds, and sea salt, are pretty much all superfoods. Read about garlic's anti-cancer, prebiotic, and other health benefits here. The nuts and seeds in the recipe include walnuts and hemp seeds; both are rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids. They help to mellow out the bite of the raw garlic, making this an extremely palatable way to eat a lot of this healthy plant. Check out this link to read more about basil's nutritional benefits, including its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. And of course olive oil is well known for its health benefits; follow this link for the specifics. This recipe is completely raw, so it's great for anyone on a raw foods diet or cleanse.

Pesto is so delicious and good for you, and with my recipe it's very easy and affordable to make large amounts yourself and have it on hand anytime. While pesto does freeze well, I find I can make several jars of it at a time and they'll keep in my fridge for at least a few weeks. You can top off the pesto with a bit of olive oil in order to prevent the discoloration from oxidation. Personally, if I stick things in my freezer I'm likely to forget they exist; things stored in my fridge are way easier to keep track of. If you grow basil and harvest a ton of it at once, excess can definitely be frozen or canned for long term storage.

Don't limit your pesto use to just the typical pasta and pizza! I find I can put it on just about any savory dish that needs a little salt and flavor boost. It's great on savory sandwiches, on crackers with cheese or other toppings, with rice and fish, or as a salad dressing.

Without further ado, the recipe, which makes about a half quart of pesto:

4 oz fresh basil
4 to 8 cloves garlic
1/2 c raw walnuts
1/4 c hemp seed hearts
1 tsp sea salt
1 c olive oil, more as needed for blending

This recipe uses 4 oz of basil, because it comes in these handy and well-priced tubs at our local grocery. You can easily double the batch, depending on how much basil you have on hand, and how much you love pesto.
First, de-stem your basil. Simply pinch off the leaves, discarding the tough stems and any brown leaves. Place in a blender.

Peel your garlic cloves. They can be added to the blender without chopping if using a high speed blender.

Add sea salt. I find one teaspoon is safe. I overdid it on the salt when I made one batch, and my family was a little scared of my pesto after that. Since that experience, I feel like it's better to undersalt it than use it too liberally.

Add nuts and seeds. You can mix and match as much as you want. Traditional pesto uses pine nuts, but I prefer raw walnuts and hemp seeds, both for their flavor and nutritional profile. You should add a total of 1/2 c to 1 c nut/seeds. 

Add oil. Extra virgin olive oil is traditional. Walnut oil and pistachio oil also make delicious pesto. 

Blend all ingredients. You might need to pause and stir, to get everything incorporated. More oil can be added to assist blending, but once you get the proportions right, it will blend up into a smooth green pesto.

What's your favorite way to use pesto? Please share your ideas in the comments below!

While you can make this pesto in a standard blender, this and many of my other recipes really benefit from the power of a high speed blender. I don't go a day without using my Blendtec, often twice. Once you try a truly powerful blender, you will never go back! I'm posting the ad link below to my beloved Blendtec, as well as the other leading brand, Vitamix, for comparison. Please check it out if you're interested. Every purchase through my link helps provide us with a little bit of income.

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Write comments
April 18, 2016 at 1:50 PM

I love using it with tomatoes, fresh mozarrella, fresh basil (double time!) and drizzled with balsalmic vinegar. I'm sure there's a special name for that dish but I have no idea what it is. Thanks for this recipe! I actually have a basil plant that is begging me to use 4 oz of it! I might be brave and give it a go. :)

April 22, 2016 at 6:24 PM

Caprese salad! Yes, pesto would be perfect with that :D

June 7, 2016 at 7:06 AM

It looks really unique, but a little scared... like wizard's poison. I'd love to try it.

June 13, 2016 at 11:53 AM

sounds yummy
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June 13, 2016 at 4:00 PM

Love pesto. I have basil growing right now and will need to make some soon. I usually use almonds, and I've never heard of hemp seed hearts. I think mine also calls for grated Parmesan cheese. So good on bread!!!

June 14, 2016 at 9:30 AM

Pesto usually is made with parmesan, but I do find it unnecessary with nuts and seeds instead :)

August 8, 2016 at 5:00 AM

A huge dollop of pesto stirred through some hot fresh pasta, with spinach, cherry tomatoes and diced chicken is the dish my son cooks most for me. Very quick, easy and delicious!