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How to make pesto: 7 unique recipes and why it’s healthy for you

Pesto is a popular flavourful sauce that people like to enjoy with pasta and other dishes. You can do too by trying out some of the best pesto recipes.
Ways to make pesto
Know how to make pesto in unique ways. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 16 Nov 2023, 15:26 pm IST
  • 136
Preparation Time
Preparation Time 5 mins
Cook Time
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time
Total Time 10 mins
Serves
Serves 2
Inputs from

Pesto, the delicious green paste, goes well with most dishes. Be it a chicken sandwich, grilled vegetables, salmon, salad, shrimp skewers or pasta, pesto can be paired with almost anything. Since it typically includes fresh basil, which is rich in nutrients, it offers many health benefits. The classic pesto is mostly made with fresh basil leaves, nuts, garlic and parmesan cheese. But don’t restrict yourself, and try some of the best pesto recipes!

What is pesto?

Pesto, which originated in Italy, is a flavourful and aromatic sauce. Many know it as a pasta sauce, but it can also be used as a spread, dip or topping for various dishes, says nutritionist Manpreet Kaur Paul.

healthy pasta
Pesto is often paired with pasta. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Pesto can be a healthy addition to your meals for several reasons:

1. It has nutrient-rich ingredients

Pesto typically includes fresh basil, which is rich in vitamins A and K, and minerals such as iron and calcium. Also, garlic contains allicin, a compound with potential health benefits.

2. Good fats

The primary fat source in pesto comes from extra virgin olive oil and pine nuts. These fats are heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that can contribute to overall well-being, the expert tells Health Shots.

3. Antioxidants

Basil, garlic and olive oil all contain antioxidants that can help to protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals.

4. Reduced sodium

When you make pesto at home, you have control over the amount of salt you add, which can be beneficial for those looking to reduce their sodium intake.

5. No artificial additives

Homemade pesto allows you to use fresh and natural ingredients without the additives and preservatives that are often found in store-bought sauces.

6. Plant-based protein

Pesto can contribute to your protein intake, especially if made with ingredients like pine nuts or Parmesan cheese.

7. Essential oils in basil

Basil, a primary ingredient in pesto, contains essential oils like eugenol, which is known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

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While pesto can be a nutritious choice, moderation is the key. The calorie content of pesto can be relatively high due to the inclusion of olive oil and nuts, so it’s important to be mindful of portion sizes.

Basil pesto
Basil pesto is a common type of pesto. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Tasty and healthy pesto recipes

Learn how to make pesto with these quick and basic recipes. Some of these can also help you to make pesto without pine nuts!

1. Classic basil pesto

Ingredients

• 2 cups of fresh basil leaves
• 1/2 cup of pine nuts (toasted)
• 2 cloves of garlic
• 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
• 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
• Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Combine basil, pine nuts, garlic, and Parmesan cheese in a food processor. With the processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil until smooth then season with salt and pepper.

2. Spinach and walnut pesto

Ingredients

• 2 cups of fresh spinach
• 1/2 cup of walnuts (toasted)
• 2 cloves of garlic
• 1/2 cup of grated Pecorino Romano cheese
• 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
• Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Blend spinach, walnuts, garlic and Pecorino in a food processor, and drizzle olive oil while blending. Finally, season it with salt and pepper.

3. Sun-dried tomato pesto

Ingredients

• 1 cup of sun-dried tomatoes (rehydrated in hot water)
• 1/2 cup of almonds (toasted)
• 2 cloves of garlic
• 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
• 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
• Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Blend sun-dried tomatoes, almonds, garlic and Parmesan. Put some olive oil to it then season it with salt and pepper.

4. Avocado and basil pesto

Ingredients

• 1 ripe avocado
• 2 cups of fresh basil leaves
• ½ cup of pine nuts (toasted)
• 2 cloves of garlic
• 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
• ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
• Salt and pepper, according to taste
• Lemon juice

Method

Combine ripe avocado, pine nuts, fresh basil leaves, garlic, Parmesan cheese and a splash of lemon juice and blend for a delicious pesto.

5. Cilantro and cashew pesto

Ingredients

• 2 cups of fresh cilantro
• 1/2 cup of cashews (toasted)
• 2 cloves of garlic
• 1/2 cup of grated Monterey Jack cheese
• 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
• Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Combine cilantro, cashews, garlic and Monterey Jack and blend them, drizzle some olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

6. Kale and pumpkin seed pesto

Ingredients

• 2 cups of kale
• 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds (toasted)
• 2 cloves of garlic
• 1/2 cup of grated Pecorino Romano cheese
• 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
• Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Blend kale, pumpkin seeds, garlic and Pecorino then add olive oil while blending and season it with salt and pepper.

7. Roasted red pepper pesto

Ingredients

• 1 cup of roasted red peppers
• 1/2 cup of almonds (toasted)
• 2 cloves of garlic
• 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
• 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
• Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Blend roasted red peppers, almonds, garlic and Parmesan, put olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Pesto can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, but have it within four to seven days.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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