Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sweet Basil Walnut Pesto

It’s springtime and time for everything green! One of our most favorite spreads and sauces is pesto. Store-bought pesto is pretty pricey, and making your own can be too (especially if you use pine nuts). We came up with a thrifty recipe that uses less oil and walnuts. It is just as good. This recipe makes LOTS but it freezes really well.  In fact, we had pesto tonight from last September. This is a recipe you will want to have on hand when your garden is bursting with basil this summer.

Sweet Basil Walnut Pesto
6 cups loosely-packed, washed basil leaves
1 cup of your favorite hard cheese, shredded 
       (like aged gouda, parmesan, asiago...)
1/3 cup walnuts
3 Tbsp herbed white wine vinegar
2 -3 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

In a small fry pan, toast walnuts over medium -heat until fragrant and beginning to brown. Remove from the pan to cool.

In a food processor, chop the basil, walnuts, cheese and garlic. Add the white wine vinegar and gradually add the oil. Puree until it reaches your desired consistency, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. We like ours a little chunkier, so we only pulse, but you can make this as smooth as you like.

Pesto will keep in the refrigerator for a week, or you can freeze for about 3-4 months. It has been 5 months for our pesto and it was still good! You will only use about ¼ cup for 4 people. You can also freeze in an ice-cube tray and then put in a zippy for single servings.

Got other herbs/greens in your garden?  You can make pesto out of anything-- even a combination of herbs and greens. It is a great way to experiment and use up every bit of whatever in your garden. I have even seen recipes that use jalapeno and anaheim peppers, too. Yum! Got a favorite pesto combination? I would love to hear it!

Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chicken
Here is a fun and tasty way to enjoy your pesto sauce using ingredients you probably have around the house. You can substitute chickpeas or cannellini beans for your protein if you like. Enjoy!

6 oz whole-wheat pasta
¼ cup pesto
¼ cup half and half (can be fat-free)
4 Tbsp low-fat cream cheese or Neufchatel
½ cup reserved pasta water

Combine the noodles with the cream cheese and ½ cup of reserved pasta water. Toss in the pesto and the half and half. Serve with chickpeas or chicken breast and a green salad. Serves 4.

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