Simple and fresh, homemade pesto brings brightness to any dish. Get creative in the kitchen with your own!
Fresh herbs can elevate any dish with their bright flavor. While fresh herbs can be accessed year round, purchasing or harvesting fresh herbs in the midst of peak growing season ensures the best flavor and nutrition (just like other produce!).
Keeping fresh herbs on hand helps ensure a bright and flavorful meal. While you can easily just top your dish with the fresh herbs, making a simple sauce is another great way to preserve the delicate herbs and extend their shelf life. There are endless ways to incorporate herbs into homemade condiments, but pesto is by far one of the easiest and most versatile! If you have never made pesto before, I promise you it is incredibly simple and takes only 5 minutes.
Traditional pesto is made up of basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic and Parmesan cheese. It’s bright, pungent and can easily be the shining star or play a supporting role in an endless variety of dishes. By getting creative in the kitchen, you can use what you have on hand and customize to your taste preferences. Here’s a simple formula of ingredient ratios and suggestions on flavor combinations:
Tender herbs and leafy greens can be to make up the bulk of the pesto, all with subtle flavor variations. Remember, you don’t have to stick to only one herb or green. Mix and matching will create a more unique pesto!
TRY: Parsley, cilantro, mint, arugula, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, radish tops, beet greens, carrot tops, spinach, watercress, broccoli, peas, etc.
Nuts and seeds provide the buttery flavor and earthiness to the pesto. Plus, different nuts and seeds have different nutrient profiles so mixing it up will help you get a wide variety of different healthy fats, vitamins and mineral.
TRY: Hemp seeds, cashews, almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds.
The importance of high-quality oil cannot be stressed enough. Rather than vegetable oils, opt for olive oil, avocado oil, or other nut or seed oil like flax, walnut, or pumpkin,
TRY: Olive oil, avocado oil, flax seed oil, pumpkin seed oil, walnut oil, hemp oil, MCT oil.
Lemon, garlic, salt and pepper is all you really need!
Cheese/nutritional yeast (*optional)
Some may argue with me here, but in my opinion, cheese is optional. Based on your dietary preference you can choose to include it or not. If you have nutritional yeast on hand, adding 1-2 tablespoons will impart a cheesy, umami flavor and an extra boost of nutrients.
TRY: Nutritional yeast, or your favorite hard cheese like Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago.
Now it’s time to mix it all up!
Once you have all of your ingredients, you can use this equation as a general ratio. Slight adjustment to the ratios will not have that much of an impact of the overall product. So use this as a guideline and find out what works best for you!
2 cups greens + 1/4 cup nuts/seeds + 1/4 cup oil + 2 T lemon + 1 clove garlic + (optional – 1 -2 T nutritional yeast or hard cheese)
You will need either food processor or blender to get the job done. While you can toss everything in the food processor or blender, adding the ingredients in stages and pulsing them together can help you form a thick paste, which can be thinned out by simply adding more oil or water before serving. If you are a visual learner, here’s a helpful video tutorial.
Top it, dip it, spread it… you’ve got a deliciously homemade pesto to do whatever you want!
For more ideas on storing and using your pesto plus a tasty hemp seed pesto recipe, head over to the original article.
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Jessica Kelley, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian based in St. Louis, MO. She promotes a healthy lifestyle that focuses on wholesome, natural ingredients to fuel our everyday lives to lay the foundation for balance without obsessing over numbers or fad diets. Read more from Jessica at Nourished by Nutrition.