Looking for a way to eat more nutritious foods? You may want to turn to superfoods — foods and drinks that contain high amounts of health-boosting vitamins and minerals.
Pesto is a great way to cram multiple superfoods into a single meal. Read on to learn how you can use this versatile sauce to power up your health.
Pesto’s Health Benefits
The ingredients in pesto contain an array of nutrients that are good for your mind and body. For example:
- Sweet basil contains multiple antioxidant molecules that may help fight cellular damage, decrease inflammation, and reduce your risk of chronic health conditions. It also contains vitamin K, which helps keep your bones strong and support your blood health.
- Pine nuts are a healthy, plant-based source of protein. They contain multiple types of unsaturated fats — the “healthy fats” that keep your brain healthy, improve cholesterol levels, and decrease your chances of developing heart disease. Research has also found that pine nuts may help control your blood sugar levels and protect against diabetes.
- Garlic may help your immune system work more efficiently, reducing inflammation while helping your body better fight off infection. It can also keep you healthy by reducing blood pressure levels. Garlic may even boost your exercise performance.
- Olive oil contains a lot of healthy fats that may reduce your risk of heart disease. Some research has even found that people who eat high levels of olive oil are 81% more likely to live longer! This may be because olive oil helps protect against conditions like heart disease, brain conditions, and cancer.
A Simple Pesto Recipe
Pesto is incredibly easy to make — especially if you have a food processor, blender, or personal blender such as a Magic Bullet or Ninja. If you want to go the old-school route, you can even use a traditional mortar and pestle!
Follow these simple steps to get about 1 cup of your own homemade pesto:
- Add 2 cups fresh basil leaves, ¼ cup pine nuts, 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, dashes of salt and pepper, and a splash of lemon juice to your food processor or blender.
- Pulse until everything is coarsely chopped.
- Drizzle in 2/3 cup olive oil while your food processor or blender is running.
- Add ½ cup parmesan cheese and pulse again until everything looks fully combined.
You can also modify this basic recipe to better suit your palette. For example, play with the recipe by adding in additional herbs such as parsley, cilantro, or mint, or substitute some of the basil for other superfood leafy greens like spinach or kale. Alternatively, swap out pine nuts for almonds, walnuts, or your favorite nut — or something completely different, like sunflower seeds. Add in some crushed red pepper or chopped jalapeno if you prefer a bit of heat. For vegan pesto, use nutritional yeast instead of cheese.
Fresh basil may turn dark brown after it’s chopped. It won’t hurt to eat darkened pesto, but it may look a little nicer if you keep it protected from the air. As soon as you’ve grabbed the pesto you want for your current meal, store the rest by pushing plastic wrap down into your container so that the plastic wrap is directly in contact with the pesto. Then, throw the container in the fridge.
You can also make a big batch of pesto to use later. Simply freeze your pesto in ice cube trays. Once the cubes are frozen through, place them into freezer bags. Take out and defrost your pesto as needed.
How To Use Pesto
Whether you make your own pesto or buy ready-made pesto from your local grocery store, there are a ton of ways to add this superfood ingredient to your meals.
For your next meal, you may want to try one of the following:
- Top scrambled eggs with pesto for a high-protein breakfast.
- Spoon pesto overtop of pasta. Pesto can stand on its own as a pasta sauce or be added to macaroni and cheese. For an extra superfood boost, use whole-grain pasta, spaghetti squash, or zucchini noodles.
- Add pesto to a pot along with chicken, cannellini beans, chicken stock, and spinach for a super-easy soup.
- Spread some pesto on top of toasted whole-grain bread or focaccia.
- Grill some vegetables and toss with pesto once you take them off the heat.
- Make a simple salad by adding pesto to freshly-chopped veggies. Alternatively, try a Caprese salad by adding pesto and a drizzle of balsamic dressing to fresh tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.
- Use pesto as a sauce on some homemade pizza topped with other superfood ingredients like spinach, chopped tomatoes, or sliced mushrooms.
Getting Your Superfood Boost
While pesto is great any time of the year, its quick prep time and ability to be easily incorporated into quick meals make it the perfect solution for easy, fresh eating during the summertime months when you may not feel like cooking. Try it a different way each time to you make it to keep things interesting!