Tasty and Healthy Pesto

Tasty And healthy PestoTasty and Healthy Pesto

My aim is to make my food packed full of flavour yet also healthy. This tasty and healthy pesto is exactly that.

While I eat a variety of vegetables, I always look for ways to add vegetables from the cruciferous group of vegetables to most of the food I cook at home. 

Vegetables in this group include, among others, arugula/rocket, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and watercress.

Cruciferous vegetables are low GL carbohydrates and are rich in fibre and a very good source of vitamins and minerals. They have rightfully gained a super-food status and nutritionists recommend that we eat some of these vegetables every day. 

The cruciferous veggies I use the most are tenderstem broccoli (broccolini), kale, arugula and watercress and I find it very easy to add either of these to a lot of different dishes.

Watercress and arugula packs a real punch taste-wise - they are both quite peppery - and will liven up a lot of food.

When I made this tasty and healthy pesto in the photo above I had a bag with a mix of watercress, arugula/rocket and spinach at home. I used some of this mix together with some curly kale and basil for my pesto. Other times I have made it with just basil and kale or basil and watercress or arugula.

It doesn't matter what mixture of green veg you use, just add at least one cruciferous vegetable together with basil to your pesto. 

Apart from all the greenery, the other super healthy ingredients in my pesto are nuts and seeds, garlic and olive oil.

A traditional pesto uses pine nuts but I tend use a mix of seeds and nuts to make the pesto even more nutritious. Nuts and seeds area rich source of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals and heart-healthy essential fats.

I add a mix of walnuts and some seeds like sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds and pine nuts (which are classed as seeds).

And then there is garlic, tasty, super healthy and yes, smelly!

Garlic has the power to combat high blood pressure and cholesterol build-up, as well as some cancers.

Many of the benefits come from the substance that is its main social drawback; allicin, the smelly element in garlic. Allicin makes our blood vessels dilate, improving blood flow and so reducing the risk of blood clots. Garlic has anti-bacterial properties and an anti-inflammatory effect and is also a good source of vitamin C, B6 and selenium.

Extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants and monounsaturated fatty acids which is said to protect against heart disease.

And yes, I add Parmesan cheese to my pesto - unless I'm doing a vegan version where I use nutritional yeast instead.

Recipe For Tasty And Healthy Pesto

For 2 people:

  • A handful of basil – leaves and stalks – or use chives instead
  • 100g, 3½oz, mixed green leaves – preferably some kale plus some other dark green leaves
  • 1 garlic clove crushed/minced
  • 1 tablespoon seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, pine nuts)
  • 10 walnut halves
  • 1 tablespoon Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese – or use nutritional yeast
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt + ½ teaspoon black pepper

1.    Place the basil (or chives), dark green leaves, garlic, seeds and nuts in a food processor and blitz for about 15-20 seconds until you have a coarse mix.

2.    Transfer this mix to a bowl and add the olive oil, cheese (if using) and season with the salt and black pepper. Mix everything together.

The pesto will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days. Just cover it well before placing it in the fridge.

Serving suggestions:

  • With pasta (wholegrain, brown rice pasta, pasta made from pulses) + salad with tomatoes, peppers and carrots. For me, the amount of pesto you get from the recipe above is enough for a pasta dish for 2 people.
  • Toss roasted vegetables - like carrots, sweet potatoes, new potatoes – and/or some steamed green vegetables – asparagus, broccoli, beans with some of the pesto. Eat with optional extras such as cooked salmon or chicken, feta cheese or nutritional yeast.
  • As a topping on soups
  • As a topping on oat cakes (with optional goat’s cheese on top of the pesto)

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