Sunday, September 8, 2013

15 Minute Lower Calorie Pesto

My husband is the green thumb in the house. I have literally murdered cactus plants in my lifetime, but my male counterpart has used our tiny urban patio to grow cherry tomatoes and a wide array of herbs this spring and into summer. Between that an a co-worker with a much larger garden of her own out in the 'burbs, I found myself with a ton of basil just sitting in my fridge. There was only one thing to do: Make pesto.

This recipe is blatantly stolen from Cooking Light and was originally brought to my attention by my mom who still snail mails me recipes written on index cards, which is just yet another reason I deeply, deeply love her. This pesto recipe comes in under 60 calories a tablespoon and produces a dense pesto with a lot of flavor, so a little goes a long way.

I timed myself the other day and I promise you, this took me less than 15 minutes to throw together, including pulling basil leaves from stems which is always THE WORST. For how fresh this pesto tastes compares to store bought versions, it's totally worth the extra effort every once and a while. You can freeze leftovers in ice cube trays, too, and have your own fresh pesto ready to go all year long.

You'll need: 
- 4 cups of fresh basil
- 2 tbs pine nuts
- 2 large cloves of garlic
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 3 tbs olive oil
- cracked sea salt to taste

Calories: 58 calories per tablespoon
Compare to normal pesto that is 80-100 calories per tablespoon

Let's start with the prep work. In a small non-stick pan over medium-low heat, toast the pine nuts until they are lightly brown. Strip the basil leaves off of the stems.

When the pine nuts are nice and toasty, add them along with the garlic, basil leaves and parmesan cheese in your food processor. Process for about a minute until everything is well chopped.

Then pour in your olive oil and process for about another minute. Stop, scrape the sides of the processor to get all the good bits down to the bottom and process again for 30 seconds or so. Repeat the process until all is well mixed. BOOM, pesto! You made pesto! You did it! Go you!

Things I do with this pesto:
  • Mix it with olive oil mayo for an easily spreadable pesto mayonnaise. Add to all sandwiches ever because DUH. I had an egg sandwich with provolone and pesto mayo this morning. Yum x infinity.
  • Pesto pizza is everything to me. Use my pizza crust recipe, top with pesto, mozzarella and tomatoes. I usually add shrimp, too. Maybe some mushrooms.
  • Ditto for pesto pasta. Toss a tablespoon or two with cooked spaghetti, add a little extra parmesan. That's it. You're done. Amazing dinner.
  • Make a fresh caprese tossed salad with fresh mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette and the pesto.
  • Add it to your cheese plate. This pesto? On a really great cracker? With maybe some great goat cheese? Or burrata? Done.
  • Stir some into your tomato or vegetable soup to take it to the next level.
  • Pesto shrimp skewers. Mix raw shrimp. With pesto. Grill. Ditto with chicken.