July 29, 2012

Homemade pesto served with pasta (healthier version)

I’ve never been able to successfully keep a basil plant alive, ever. Believe me, I’ve tried. But this year, I build raised beds and I jumped into the whole gardening thing – and I’m both shocked and humbled to have just harvested my very first homegrown batch of basil. I won’t go all mushy on you – but I’m feeling very basil-blessed after harvesting it all and making up a batch of the most delicious, fresh pesto I’ve ever had. Maybe it tastes so good, because it came from my garden. Yes, that’s probably it, but that’s okay. I think savoring the bounty is the real reason anyone gardens anyway. So I’ll sit back, smile and savor it. And I’ll share with you my simple, healthier, pesto recipe.

This week I harvested a ton of zucchini and a beautiful pile of basil.

If you don’t have homegrown basil, don’t despair. Buy it from Trader Joe’s (great price) or in the produce section of most grocery stores.

This recipe is a little healthier than other recipes because it calls for less olive oil. I substitute olive oil with water from boiled pasta (pasta water). It also has less cheese and fewer pine nuts than other recipes. I still think it tastes superb, but you can always add more of whatever you like. Want more olive oil? Add less water. It’s very difficult to screw it up.


Fresh Basil 2 cups(I doubled this recipe, I figure if you’re going to make it, go for a big batch and then freeze remaining pesto). Wash and dry basil.

Pine nuts 2-3 tablespoons, these are expensive, so you can start with less then add more if you want more flavor. I like the pine nut flavor so I’m more of a 3 tablespoons kinda gal. Buy it in bulk to save. Or check Amazon or Costco.

Fresh parmesan cheese, shredded 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup
Costco has a great price on this.

Garlic 2-3 cloves, peeled

Olive oil 1 tablespoon

Water, from boiled pasta 1/4 cup

Salt, 1/2 teaspoon


1.) Throw washed basil into large food processor. I made a double batch and it fit perfectly in my Cuisinart 14-cup food processor (which I adore).

2.) Toss in pine nuts, peeled garlic and shredded cheese.

3.) Add olive oil. The more you add, the richer it will be. We did one tablespoon (2x for double batch).

4.) Pulse the food processor and get it going. See what the consistency looks like. Slowly add pasta water until you get it to the consistency that you like. Avoid making it runny, if you are adding it to freshly boiled pasta there is going to moisture from that as well.

5.) Taste it. Need more garlic? More olive oil? Pine nuts? Add them and blend again. It’s really easy – you can’t screw it up, I promise. Make it to your liking.

6.) And you’re done! It’s that easy. Scrap out pesto into bowl. Serve on pasta, chicken, sandwiches, with a cheese plate or on a burger.

I like to freeze my extra pesto. This last time I used a mini muffin pan – each spot holds about 1 tablespoon of basil. A great serving size – a little bit goes a long way, especially on pasta. Once it’s frozen pop the pieces into a plastic bag and you can take out one at a time. I used a metal mini muffin pan, but here is a silicone mini muffin pan – I bet it would work great for popping out the frozen pesto packs – HIC Brands that Cook Essentials Silicone 24-Cup Mini Muffin Pan.

If you don’t have a mini muffin pan, you can use an ice cube tray.

What’s your favorite way to make pesto? What types of foods do you like to serve with pesto?


    Leave your comments here...


  1. Mark FLynn says

    I’ve used walnuts, almonds and even pecans. For the super budget conscious you can add a peeled baked potato and it will stretch your pile of pesto….(just add a little bit at a time)

  2. Celia Husmann says

    I made a ton of pesto yesterday but I never use pine nuts. I use walnuts and it always comes out delicious!

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