I cringe thinking about the amount of money and hours I used to spend making “authentic” homemade pesto. Was it delicious? Yes. Did I need to grow 5 basil plants, harvest and then spend 3 hours plucking leaves off stems so I could freeze a bunch of pesto to use over the winter? Absolutely not. I made fresh and healthy pesto in 5 minutes yesterday. It’s so much better to make it yourself and it’s not full of fat and preservatives like the store bought kind. And do you know what else I realized? Toss the whole thing of basil in there. Stems, flowers. The works. Why would you waste it? Since it’s summer I’m in the middle of “I have way too much giant zucchini to know what to do with” season, so I made creamy pesto zucchini and chicken zucchini boats with this pesto, a small can of coconut milk, and some leftover grilled chicken. Prime example of why having the ability to whip up some quick pesto can take most dishes next level.
Homemade pesto can also get a little pricey, especially if you don’t have a garden. That’s why I whipped this recipe up. I used 1 part arugula, 1 part spinach, 1 part basil, but you can really use any of your leftover salad blends (other than butter lettuce or romaine). It’s a great way to not waste things and stretch a small amount of basil. Traditional pesto calls for pine nuts which are NOT cheap, so know that you can use walnuts in their place which are a lot less expensive and still provide a nice nutty flavor. I also was able to minimize the amount of parmesan cheese that I used to use by adding in nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is a great source of protein, B vitamins and trace minerals AND is low in sodium and fat. It’s an awesome addition to meals and cheese replacement even though it has a less than sexy name.
1 C spinach
1 C basil
1 T nutritional yeast
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T parmesan cheese
1/4 t salt
2 t lemon juice
2 t garlic or 3 garlic cloves
1/4 t black pepper
2 T walnuts or pine nuts
- Combine all ingredients in food processor or blender, processing until thoroughly combined.
- Taste test and make any adjustments.
Tips and Tricks:
- If you’ve made a big batch, I love splitting everything out into 4oz Gladware mini rounds. They are the perfect size for any recipe you would need pesto for, and they don’t take up a ton of space in the freezer! Unfreezing the whole batch and then putting it back in the freezer is for suckers. If you are making meals for just one or two, freezing your pesto in an ice cube tray is also a great hack.
- Fan of creamy pesto or need to stretch the pesto you have further? Add canned coconut milk or greek yogurt (or a blend of both) to make a fabulous and easy cream sauce.
- Pesto isn’t just for pasta! Drizzle over eggs, use as a spread on a sandwich or chicken breasts, or even use in place of tomato sauce on pizza.