What do I do with extra basil that needs to be used up? My thoughts exactly last Wednesday after I thought it’d be a great idea on Tuesday to transfer my basil from its plastic container to a glass of water in the fridge. One day of wilting later and I needed a solution. Pesto to the rescue!
As usual I made do with what I had on hand. Running to the grocery store for just one item never works for me and I really enjoy sticking to my 90$ a week food habit. Do you have a food budget? T’was quite a reality check when I did the math on grocery bills and taco runs. 90$ naturally found itself and has worked well for a month or so now without us feeling deprived of special foodie occasions. (Note: Long Beach Crawfish Festival this past weekend!)
I’ve only made basil based pestos but there are many other delicious herbaceous flavors (try cilantro, parsley, oregano or any combo you may think of.) Pretty much every herb offers health benefits not to mention freshness and an added light feeling to your meal.
Lightness was key for me as I have not completely recovered from the Creamy Whole Wheat Pasta with Goat Cheese, Tomato and Basil. I know, I know, I’m supposed to be blogging about healthy things. Cream Lauren? Really? Okay, I hear you!
For this recipe I used organic half and half. Happy?
And whole wheat pasta which offers fiber and protein in addition to unrefined carbs. Don’t forget the omega-3’s from the walnuts, and the cellular protection we receive from the basil. Totally healthy.
For real though, I could never do any fat-free or sugar-free diet. My body and brain need fat. It keeps my axons myelinated and helps slow the absorption of carbs, so think again next time you don’t want to butter your bread. And by butter I mean real butter. Any hydrogenated oil, or trans fat as we commonly know them, cannot be broken down by our body. We only have an enzyme to break cis- bonds, not trans- bonds. Even though it’s only the difference of a spatial arrangement of hydrogen atoms, your body knows. And now you do too. 🙂 Our system can also differentiate between artificial and natural sugars. Many studies have demonstrated our bodies ‘rebound’ from artificial sugars like saccharin and it doesn’t prove well for our caloric intake. In fact it seems as though our bodies crave more carbs and empty calories following artificial sugar intakes (read: ‘rebound’.) Sounds like a continuous circle to avoid. Sounds like whole wheat pasta is a good idea. I can’t tell the difference now, like I did my first or second try but I am def more inclined to eat anything whole wheat any day!
To the whole wheat pasta I poured over the feta
cream half and half sauce that I embellished with my basil walnut pesto. No cheese pesto meets feta creamy sauce and there it is: Love!
Try this. You’ll feel satisfied without the guilt!
Basil Walnut Pesto
1 c. basil leaves, loosely packed
1/2 c. walnuts, toasted
1-2 garlic gloves, small
~1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Combine everything except the oil in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Next add the oil, preferably in a stream while the processor is running. If you can’t do this (due to a closed top device) just add the oil, close lid and pulse until desired consistency.
I didn’t add any cheese because I was thinking of freezing it before my feta cream sauce urge, but feel free to add in some Parmesan Reggiano or pecorino romano here. Serve it over your favorite pasta, on a sandwich, or tossed in a hearty salad.
For the pictured pasta I made the same cream sauce as this recipe, substituting half and half and feta for the cream and goat cheese, and I added about 2 spoonfuls of the pesto to the sauce during the thickening process. Topped with some basil sprinkles and there you have it!