Since getting my Vitamix, one of the things I’ve regularly enjoyed making is pesto. Pesto is a typically green sauce, originating from Genoa in Italy. It traditionally contains pine nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic, basil and olive oil. In the past, all the ingredients were crushed by hand using a pestle and mortar to form an oily paste. This method can still be used today but does take a long time and a lot of effort. Fortunately, food processors and blenders can make much shorter work of it, meaning that if you have one, it is really easy to make yourself.
Pesto is readily available in supermarkets, but quite often it contains more oil and salt than you really need when making it fresh. There are also often other ingredients added to prolong the shelf life. Homemade pesto definitely tastes nicer. It did however take me a few attempts to perfect my recipe. I tried a few different ones, but quickly realised that I didn’t need anywhere near as much oil as the recipes often call for. Oil is basically fat. Olive oil contains good fat at least, but it still is very high in calories. If you can keep the oil content down to a reasonable amount, it is definitely better for you.
I have even now started to experiment with making different varieties of pesto. I’ve tried using walnuts and parsley instead of pine nuts and basil. I’ve added extra vegetables, such as kale and rocket. A while back when my parents had a large amount of over ripe tomatoes on their allotment, I tried adding them to a pesto style sauce with almonds and spinach. This one ended up being very sloppy, but still very tasty. I’ve learnt that lightly toasting the pine nuts in a dry frying pan first helps to enhance the flavour. Also to only use a small amount of garlic, as raw garlic has a much stronger flavour than when cooked. One of my favourite pesto recipes I attempted was this chestnut pesto pasta, which I cooked over Christmas. The chestnuts made it slightly sweeter than normal and the parsley gave it a slightly more peppery taste.
Serving pesto with pasta is only one use for this sauce. It is also really nice spread on a wrap or sandwich with some chicken and salad. It can also be used for a salad dressing with quinoa, couscous or rice. Last month I made a really tasty rocket, basil and pine nut pesto. I stirred through some tuna and couscous with tomatoes and sweetcorn ,which I ate for my dinner when travelling out to a training camp. It made a really filling and nutritious meal. I have even attempted an Asian take on a pesto, which contained chilli, peanuts and coriander. It had a fresh and spicy kick that tasted great with chicken. Another great use for pesto is to smear it over fish fillets such as salmon or cod, cover with tinfoil and bake in the oven. This helps add lots of lovely flavour to the fish, as well as some extra nutrition.
My current favourite pesto recipe is one with almonds, kale, basil, chilli and garlic. I do really enjoy spicy food. It is great mixed through some pasta, with some extra vegetables such as tomatoes and spinach and served with a fish fillet or piece of chicken. I’ve made this recipe a couple of times now, but last week I forgot to add the basil. It still tasted nice but the basil definitely enhances it.
Thats the one small problem I have with making pesto at times. Due to the several ingredients you need to make it, if I don’t lay them all out before hand and keep checking, I forget to add something I am meant to. Fortunately I’ve not yet left out anything vital, although I was pretty disappointed I had forgotten the basil, as I love the taste of it. Thats the beauty of making a sauce that uses so many tasty ingredients. If you accidentally miss out anything, it should still taste good.
I next plan to experiment with using avocado in my pesto. It can be used to replace the oil and adds a silky creaminess to it. Do you have any other suggestions for pesto recipes for me to try? I’d love to get some more inspiration. I can’t recommend my Vitamix highly enough for making things like this, as it only takes 30 seconds to blitz and you literally don’t have to do anything. Its a cheap and nutritious way of adding flavour to any meal. Like I say though, you don’t need a fancy Vitamix to make your own pesto, any small hand blender will do, or even go old school with a pestle and mortar. It might require a little extra work, and you may need to chop up the ingredients first, but trust me the end result is worth it. So much better than the kind from a jar.
Thank you for reading and speak soon.