Thursday, April 18, 2013

Spinach & Walnut Pesto

I am a sucker for a good pesto! I have been known to use it as a dip for chips or homemade bread, as a pasta sauce or to top a huge bowl of homemade tomato soup!

Pestos are a great way to use up very delicate herbs and greens that do not last very long in the fridge and it's super healthy! I like to make up huge batches of pesto, when basil and baby spinach are in season and then freeze it and use it all year long. You can thaw out a little taste of summer during the  winter, whenever you have a hankering. It's also a super easy way to get those leafy greens into little tummies who claim they hate my two year old. I like to make some whole grain pasta and then melt some pesto over it, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese have a super healthy meal that kids will love!

When I make pesto I like to use the very best ingredients I can find. It's a raw sauce that will not be cooked and, therefore the things you put in it should be the best. I also like to play around with the herbs and greens I use in mine to get all different flavors and nutrient levels. Basil is a very anise flavored herb that is sometimes a little aggressive on more delicate dishes, so I like to cut that back with baby spinach which gives you an extremely healthy and lightly flavored pesto. The other component of pesto that I like to experiment with are the nuts. You don't have to use just pine nuts, which are very expensive, you can use any nut combo you like. I use walnuts the most because I think they make an incredibly rich pesto and they are loaded with omega-3's.

Pesto is a great way to use up and preserve your herbs, but you can also freeze them whole in olive oil as well. Let's talk about how to make and freeze pesto and also how to freeze herbs that you don't want to use in pesto.

Let's talk about pesto first. I like to jar some of the pesto to use right away, but it's so intensely flavored that a little goes a long what to do with the rest? I have a few, flexible, ice cube trays that are designated to herb freezing only. These ice cube trays are easy to bend so they make popping out the cubes of pesto very easy. I just spoon in the pesto, about 1 Tbsp each cube place them in the freezer, wait 24 hours and then pop them out and store them in a freezer bag. They can be thawed out in about 20 minutes just sitting on the counter, zapped for a few seconds in the microwave or they can be added directly from the freezer into a hot dish to melt in, easy peasy!!

Now let's talk about the herbs that aren't going in your pesto. These can also be saved and used all year long with one easy tip...olive oil ice cubes! Yep, you just chop up the herbs you are freezing, you can do them alone or in your favorite combos and then add them to your flexible ice cube trays, pour in good quality olive oil and freeze! This suspends them in a tiny block of olive oil ice that can be thawed or used directly from the freezer the same as your pesto cubes! Genius, absolute genius! I did not come up with this idea on my own, I have seen many Facebook shares with this, but I have been using this method for a long time and thought I would share my technique with you in case you haven't seen the viral herb freezing posts.  

This recipe makes about 2 cups.


2 Cup fresh, organic basil leaves
3 Cups organic baby spinach leaves
1/2 Cup raw, unsalted walnuts
4 Organic garlic cloves, roughly chopped.
Sea salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste.
1/2 Cup to 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 Cup Parmesan-Reggiano, grated.


In a food processor add in basil, spinach, walnuts and garlic. Pulse on low till the mixture resembles wet sand.

Add in Parmesan cheese and pulse a few more times.

With the processor on low, drizzle in olive oil slowly, using only enough to make a creamy, smooth consistency. Taste for salt and pepper and season to taste.

Serve immediately or store in fridge for up to 2 weeks. Freeze any that you aren't going to use within 2 weeks.

Pesto ideas:

Pesto mayo
1 tsp mixed into 1 Tbsp mayo for a pesto mayo for sandies.

Melt over your favorite pasta and a little pasta water for a quick sauce.

Mix with hummus for a great, healthy dip for bread or chips.

Spoon over chopped tomatoes for a low-carb side dish for breakfast or lunch.

Mix into your favorite Bloody Mary mix and serve an herbed Bloody Mary for brunch.


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