Get Your Veg On: Basil-Almond Pesto Is a Great Way to Go Green
With summer in full swing, supermarkets, farmers markets, and at-home container gardens are bursting with fresh, fragrant basil. Toss these verdant greens in the blender with a handful of other ingredients and you’ll have an aren’t-you-fancy pesto in five minutes max.
Even better? Most kids love pesto’s cheesy, nutty flavor, so go ahead and layer it in grilled cheese sandwiches, spread it on pizza, toss it with pasta, dollop it on polenta, drizzle it on eggs, swirl it into soup, or turn it into a quick, simple dip for fresh veggies (little ones looooooooooove to dip things).
You and yours will definitely go green once you try our take on this tasty summer treat (full recipe below):
While folks may quibble about the exact amounts used to make a classic pesto, most agree on the basic ingredients: fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
That said, pesto is prime for ingredient swaps based on your personal taste or what you have on hand. Our recipe, for example, calls for almonds instead of pine nuts—they have a slightly milder flavor and chances are you already have them stocked in your cupboard.
More Smart Swaps
- Replace basil with spinach, arugula, kale, watercress, parsley, cilantro, mint, radish greens, carrot tops—pretty much anything green.
- Replace pine nuts with walnuts, pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds.
- Replace Parmesan with Pecorino Romano, Asiago, Grana Padano, or Manchego.
- Replace olive oil with flaxseed oil, walnut oil, grapeseed oil, or even just canola oil.
- Hot tip! Refrigeration will quickly turn basil black. To keep those green leaves fresh and fabulous for up to two weeks, trim the stems and place them in a glass of water like a bunch of flowers. Cover with an empty plastic bag and store on the counter.
To make pesto, simply pour your basil, garlic, almonds, and grated Parmesan into a food processor or blender and pulse until coarsely combined. Next, add the olive oil through the hole in the lid in a slow and steady stream until the pesto is smooth and creamy. Stir in a little salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately. You can also store it with a thin film of olive oil on top in an airtight container—it will last a couple weeks in the refrigerator or a few months in the freezer.
If you’ve got a few extra minutes, prior to blending toast the almonds in a skillet over medium heat until golden, shaking the pan occasionally to promote even color. Toasting the nuts or seeds will give the pesto’s flavor more richness and depth.
In our centers, we embrace family-style eating—encouraging children to serve themselves teaches them important social skills (like passing items, sharing, being patient, and saying “please” and “thank you”) and how to listen to their own hunger cues. Sure, there will likely be some spills when children take the lead, but also lots of smiles.
Giving kids the freedom to serve themselves can also inspire them to try new foods—even ones that are green (gasp!) like pesto. Mix your pesto with plain Greek yogurt or cottage cheese and invite your kiddo to spoon some onto his plate. Serve it with a fun array of “dippers,” such as colorful sliced veggies, crackers, and pita wedges, and let him dunk away!
Yield: About 1 pint
Total time: 5 minutes
2 cups packed fresh basil
1–2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1/4 cup almonds, sliced and raw or toasted for a deeper flavor
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4–1/3 cup olive oil
Coarse black pepper
Optional: Plain Greek yogurt or cottage cheese to make a tasty dip
Place the basil, garlic, almonds, and Parmesan in a food processor or blender, and pulse the ingredients until coarsely combined. Turn off the machine and scrape down the sides of the container.
Turn the food processor or blender on again and pour the olive oil through the hole in the lid in a slow and steady stream until the pesto is smooth and creamy.
Add salt and pepper to taste, and then place the pesto in a serving bowl or storage container. If making a dip, stir in yogurt or cottage cheese to taste. Enjoy!