Saturday, August 10, 2013

Arugula Basil Pesto

As much as I enjoyed learning about cooking and baking with dried spices last year, it’s also fun to use fresh herbs and vegetables. I’ve been making this recipe from Whole Foods for years, and will share my modifications. The end result is thicker than a traditional pesto, but uses less than half of the oil called for. I always have cream cheese on hand, but rarely have ricotta cheese in the fridge, so I use the former here…any kind you have is fine!

I’ve been admiring the way Pioneer Woman shows all ingredients at the beginning of each recipe, so I thought I’d give it a try. I need way more small bowls, hence the use of a glass for the oil. Throughout the year, I make this recipe with arugula and spinach, but today’s farm stand had glorious basil, so that was "it" for this version.

The following quantities are small dinner portions for two people. I wrote a note to myself that if I was going to reheat leftovers at the office the next day, I should use only one clove of garlic. The next project is to roast a head of garlic and mellow the flavor of the garlic before adding it here.

Assemble in a blender: 1 cup arugula, 1 cup basil or spinach, 1 clove garlic, ¼ cup nuts (toasted for a maximum of 3 minutes), 2 tablespoons oil, 3 tablespoons milk (I used skim), 2 tablespoons cream cheese, 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese. Blend until desired consistency is reached. I add the pesto to just boiled and drained pasta, and warm it briefly. You could heat it separately on the stove or in the microwave.

The original recipe calls for shrimp, and I have served this pasta with everything from scallops to smoked salmon when I'm in a rush. Last year we grew our own arugula, and the young sprouts were a gentler flavor than the full sized bunches available now.

I used pine nuts in this iteration, but have used walnuts, cashews, and possibly hazelnuts in the past. My baking drawer in the fridge is well stocked! The original recipe calls for salt and pepper, but I’ve never added them to this pesto. Do you have a favorite healthy-er pesto recipe? Any tips to share?

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