By Natalie Bickford, MS
Pesto: The Most Versatile Sauce of All Time
Pesto might be our favorite ‘no-cook’ sauce. It’s hard to beat the bright green color and nutty, salty and cheesy flavor. It’s also a super adaptable sauce -- make it the traditional way with pine nuts or use cashews, walnuts, almonds or even pumpkin seeds. Instead of basil, try it with parsley, cilantro or mint. Make it super green and sneak in some veggies with the addition of kale, arugula or spinach. Skip the cheese and add a generous amount of miso paste for an umami-rich cheesy flavor. The options are endless!
Our Favorite Ways to Eat Pesto
Pesto is one of those sauces that we always like to have on hand in the fridge or freezer. Next time you make a batch, double it and freeze half. It makes pulling off dinner in under 30 minutes a breeze!
Use it as a sauce for pasta, potato salad or our favorite power bowls. Top or mix it in with your scrambled eggs for your next breakfast -- you can thank us later. Mix it with yogurt for a tangy, salty refreshing dip. Smear it on a baguette and top with tomatoes for a delicious summer appetizer.
Our Favorite Run Fast. Eat Slow. Pesto Recipes
If you couldn't tell from this blog post how much we love pesto, just look at all the recipes in both cookbooks that utilize our favorite sauce!
*RFES = Run Fast. Eat Slow.
*RFCFES = Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow
Arugula Cashew Pesto (RFES, p. 67)
Presto Pesto (RFCFES, p. 172)
Pesto Potato Salad (RFES, p. 95)
Pesto Pasta with Sardines (RFCFES, p. 148)
Pizza Cali (RFCFES, p. 132)
Pesto Tuna Melt (RFCFES, p. 107)
Pesto Yogurt Dip (RFCFES, p. 175)
Find some of our favorite quick, easy weekday dinners.
The Health Benefits of Pesto
Pesto is loaded with healthy fats, antioxidants and important minerals. It helps to fight of inflammation and boost your immune system with it’s combination of fresh herbs, olive oil and raw garlic.
We love Parmesan, a common pesto ingredient, not only for it’s sharp, nutty flavor but also it’s bone-building nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin K.
BONUS! If you’re sensitive to dairy, Parmesan is the cheese for you. Since it’s aged over a year, the lactose gets converted by enzymes into lactic acid, making it essentially lactose-free.
Minty Pea Pesto
Makes about 1 cup
Here’s another springy pesto recipe to add to your repertoire. The green peas add a subtle sweetness and that’s magical paired with refreshing mint. No Parmesan needed in this recipe due to the creaminess and delicate flavor from the peas. Use it as a sauce for pasta, spread for toast or dip for veggies and chips!
2 cups loosely packed mint (or sub basil or use a combo)
½ cup toasted walnuts (or any other toasted nut)
1 cup green peas, cooked or thawed from frozen
¼ cup olive oil
Zest from 1 lemon (optional)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic
½ tsp salt
Add all ingredients to a food processor or high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Add more salt or lemon juice, to taste.
This pesto is best eaten fresh within one day or frozen for later use.
*For the pasta salad pictured above:
Add cooked pasta, thinly sliced radishes + raw beets, and zucchini ribbons to a large bowl. Add a generous amount of pesto and toss. Top with walnuts, parmesan and dollops of more pesto!
Recipe and photos by Natalie Bickford
Natalie is a nutritionist and personal chef in Portland, OR who specializes in women's health and sports nutrition. She loves creating simple, nourishing meals and recipes to fuel your life. Find Natalie at nataliecooks.com.