Pesto is one of my choice ways to get vegetables, herbs, nuts and healthy fats into the system. I really enjoy making it at home because I love being creative with it.
Traditional pesto is made with basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and Parmesan but there’s no need to be too religious with it. Some of the best pestos I have made are when I am shamelessly unfaithful to its original form.
Pesto and pasta is my favourite combination, more recently I have swapped whole grain pasta for the kamut and spelt varieties, but quinoa and brown rice work well too and pesto is a lovely dressing for salad and vegetables. Rather than using cheese as a base component, I give a flourish towards the end and keep the olive oil at two to three tablespoons.
For any healthy and imaginative pesto here are some base components I love using:
Something green (rocket, basil, coriander) or something red (red peppers, tomatoes)
Something nutty (almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews)
Something cheesy (feta, goats cheese, mozzarella, ricotta)
Something that seasons (a pinch Himalayan pink salt, crushed chilli pepper, black pepper, go wild here)
Some healthy fats (olive oil, avocado oil, flax)
Some garlic (leave this up to your taste buds)
I often add fresh lemon juice, red or green chillies, one or two anchovies and roasted or sun dried tomatoes.
For a tangy and delicious garden pesto blend two handfuls rocket, one bunch coriander, one bunch mint, one small green chilli (deseeded), two cloves of garlic, three heaping tablespoons ground almonds, three tablespoons olive oil, juice of half a lemon and half a cup feta.
I made this last night and thought I would leave it for you to enjoy over the weekend!
Renegade Red Pesto
(Feeds very 2 hungry people)
Half of 1 large red onion, cut into segments
1 red pepper, de-seeded and cut into segments
6 garlic cloves
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1-2 pinches of crushed red chilli
1/2 tsp Himalayan pink salt
3 cups of pasta
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 bunch of basil leaves
1/4 cup crumbled feta (optional)
Freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6.
In an oven proof dish, arrange red onion, red pepper and garlic, season with salt and chilli and add two tablespoons of olive oil and coat vegetables. Roast in oven for 30-40 minutes and then allow to cool slightly.
Bring water to boil for pasta and cook according to instructions on packet.
While the pasta is cooking, toast sunflower seeds in a pan on a low to medium heat.
In a blender add roasted vegetables, toasted seeds, any liquid from the dish, remaining olive oil and blend, mixing up to a 1/4 cup of water the pasta is boiling in to create a pesto with a nice consistency.
Return to pan and stir in pesto and basil leaves.
Serve immediately with crumbled feta and black pepper.