Easy Healthy Pesto Sauce
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Easy, healthy, pesto sauce sauce to twirl your favourite pasta in. A go-to choice when you’re in a hurry and need to fix a quick meal at home. The addition of pumpkin seeds makes the sauce creamier, while walnuts complete the flavour profile. All you need to whip up this green goodness – 10 minutes!!
I wonder if anyone else is as fascinated with a good pesto sauce as I am. While I do love the classic Genovese pesto sauce too, over time I customized my own version of it by replacing pine nuts with walnuts and pumpkin seeds. I’m not a vegan, although I do sometimes switch the good ole parmesan with nutritional yeast, just to see if the taste is as good as they claim. Sure enough, it does turn out yum, with a kind of lightness it renders to the pesto, not to mention the nutritional benefits!
So, this yummilicious healthy pesto version of mine has the following elements:
So what all goes into this Pesto Sauce?
Not only is this aromatic herb a taste powerhouse, basil also boasts of benefits that make it practically irreplaceable. Belonging to the same family as Holy Basil or Tulsi (a sacred herb in India), Basil is known for its anti-inflammatory, immunity-boosting and anti-bacterial properties. It has also been known to prevent diabetes and lower cortisol levels, thus helping the body fight stress and diseases. However, if you do not have a lot of basil handy, or would like to make some changes, do try my Spinach Pesto which is just as easy and ranks high on the nutrition front, too!
Nuts and seeds
Pumpkin Seeds – Rich in Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, minerals like zinc, calcium, magnesium, iron, antioxidants as well as good fiber content, pumpkin seeds can prevent diabetes and heart diseases and aid digestive health. What is more, these are cheaper and more easily available than pine nuts, and render such amazing creaminess to the sauce in addition to the rich green color, so why not!
Walnuts – Did you know that walnuts have the highest antioxidant content when compared to most of the commonly available nuts? Chock-a-block full of vitamin E, melatonin and polyphenols, walnuts can reduce bad cholesterol aka LDL levels, improve gut health and may even prevent certain kinds of cancer. Did I mention the part where walnuts are richest plant-source of Omega-3s? That plus the nutty flavor profile they bring to my pesto sauce – priceless!
(For Vegan version, or when I’m not using parmesan): Amidst the several benefits of nutritional yeast, it’s rich vitamin B12 content (a whopping 17.6 mcg per quarter-cup) HAS TO BE the biggest one, especially for vegans as vegan diet usually is lacking in this essential micronutrient. It also provides 8 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and plenty of potassium, calcium and Iron, all in 60 calories! Not resenting the lack of parmesan now, are we?
For those who don’t mind the extra calories that come with the amazing taste.
Which, according to me, you can put never too much of in anything, ever. However, I’ve put just the moderate amount of it in the recipe, so people with all kinds of taste buds and preferences and enjoy the sauce. It might help to amp up your knowledge about the proven health benefits of garlic – immunity boosting properties, prevention against heart disease and mental conditions like dementia, high antioxidant content etc are just a few examples.
Plenty of it! There’s ample research pointing towards benefits of olive oil, including better heart health, prevention against stroke, lower risk of diabetes etc. However, it’s always advisable to know how much oil you’re using, measure and track the calories and compare the same with your intended calorie intake from fat for the day – too much of anything is never good.
What are we waiting for, then? Let’s get to the recipe already!
Looking for reliably healthy recipes? Try my Cacio e Pepe with Nutritional Yeast,Spinach Whole-Wheat Pasta in Avocado Mushroom Sauce, Zoodles with Spinach Pistachio Pesto Sauce and Nutritional Yeast, Healthy Mango Panzanella Salad and let me know what you think!
RECIPE: EASY PESTO SAUCE
EASY HEALTHY PESTO SAUCE
- 2 cups fresh basil
- 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
- ½ cup walnuts
- 4-5 cloves garlic
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated (Substitute with ½ cup nutritional yeast for VEGAN version)
- Salt, to taste
- ½ tsp freshly-ground pepper (optional)
- Add basil leaves, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, garlic, parmesan cheese OR nutritional yeast and salt in a food processor or grinder jar. Pulse a few times to get a coarse paste.
- Add olive oil slowly as you blend/ grind on a low speed.
- Add immediately to pasta or salad dish or transfer into an airtight jar and store in refrigerator.
I’d love to hear how this recipe turned out for you, if you tried it. Do post a pic on Instagram and tag #fitfoodiediary in the picture!
Q: Can I make Pesto sauce ahead of time and freeze it?
A: Yes! Pesto freezes beautifully, too. It’d be a great idea to spoon the sauce evenly into ice cube trays, freeze the same, snap the cubes out and store them in a Ziploc bag in freezer. Thaw individual cubes as required when you need to use them.
Q: My pesto turns brown every time I make it. How can I prevent it?
A: Pesto turns brown due to oxidation, aka from the exposure to oxygen in the atmosphere. There are several ways to prevent it – adding olive oil right over the brim while storing; squeezing in a teaspoon of lime juice; blending 2-3 stalks of celery/ cilantro along with other ingredients etc are some of the know tricks to avoid browning. Alternately, you could also try covering the container with a plastic wrap that touches the top of the pesto, to prevent oxidation.
Q: I don’t have parmesan available in my pantry. Is there a substitute?
A: While parmesan is the classic and best choice for a great-tasting pesto sauce, it’s ok to substitute with any other hard cheese like cheddar or gouda.
Q: Is it okay to substitute the walnuts with other nuts?
A: In a modern sense, yes! Feel free to substitute with cashews, sunflower seeds, melon seeds, pista kernels, you name it. Just remember to track the quantities and measure calories so that you can keep a count of quantities you consumed.