Perk Up Your Pesto

While the classic basil variety is usually the one that hooks us, pestos are a great opportunity to get creative – and nutritious - in the kitchen.
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We love the traditional heart-healthy combination of basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and Parmigiano-Reggiano as much as the next eater, but creative pestos made with different herbs, nuts and seeds can offer a delicious change of pace and some additional nutrient perks. Try these versions tossed with pasta, drizzled over roasted vegetables or folded into a whole-grain pilaf.

Prep Notes: While the specific ingredients in each of our pestos may change, the method stays the same. Pound garlic, lightly toasted nuts or seeds and a pinch of sea salt with a mortar and pestle, or blend in a food processor, until finely ground. Add finely chopped herbs to make a paste, then blend in oil and, lastly, the cheese.

Basil-Cilantro-Almond:

1/2 cup basil leaves
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
2 tbsp roasted unsalted almonds
1 large clove garlic
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Nutritional Bonus: Almonds are rich in vitamin E (great for keeping skin looking younger), magnesium (which aids calcium absorption) and cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fats.

Parsley-Walnut-Parmigiano:

1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 tbsp unsalted walnuts
1 large clove garlic,
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Nutritional Bonus: While the addition of parsley adds vitamins K (for healthy bone development), A and C (powerful antioxidants), the walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 fats, which may help lower triglyceride levels.

Cilantro-Pumpkin Seed-Manchego:

1 cup cilantro leaves
2 tbsp roasted pumpkin seeds
1 large clove garlic
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp finely grated manchego cheese
Nutritional Bonus: Offering manganese (which helps with carb and fat metabolism), magnesium, phosphorus (for improved energy) and poly- and monounsaturated fats, pumpkin seeds’ most surprising claim to nutrition fame may be their impressive supply of protein (5 grams per oz, roasted)!