10 Reasons Why You Should Try Pesto This Summer

June 23, 2012

Laura, Registered Dietitian

During my childhood, I always had an easy answer when asked what my favorite food was — frosting!  Nowadays, I like to think my tastes have matured and my favorite food is no longer frosting.  Answering “the favorite food” question is somewhat more complicated, but more often than not I say pesto.  Here’s why.

1)      It’s simple and fresh.
Traditionally, pesto is sauce made by crushing together fresh basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, olive oil, garlic, and salt  No baking required!

2)      It’s quick.
Pesto is so easy!  Just throw the ingredients into a food processor and you have pesto in 30 seconds!  A mortar and pestle works too.

3)      It’s delicious.
Fresh herbs, along with quality cheese, oil, and nuts make pesto a well-balanced flavor sensation.

4)      It’s versatile.
Pesto is a generic term for anything that is pounded, so the variations are endless!

  • Instead of basil try cilantro, mint, or any other herb or green with a bite. Asparagus, arugula, artichokes, and parsley work great!  Add tomatoes, lemon, or strawberries for even more of a twist.
  •  Feel free to use any other nut for a subtle taste variation—almonds, walnuts, and cashews are great. 
  • Or try another hard, flavorful cheese like Romano or pecorino in place of parmesan cheese.

5)      It’s affordable.
Swap out pine nuts for walnuts, and pesto can be made on all but the tightest of budgets!  And thanks to its strong flavor, a little goes a long way.

6)      It’s packable.
Due to its concentrated flavor, pesto is the perfect pasta topping for a backpacking trip, camping trip, or picnic.  It’s durable and relatively lightweight.  It also adds a little bit of “gourmet” to any meal.

7)      It’s a good way to fight weeds!
Replace basil with dandelion leaves or, if you take a trip to the mid-west, the invasive roadside garlic mustard, to satisfy your belly and cut down on the weed population.

8)      It’s nutritious.
Pesto is a good source of vitamin A and K and other antioxidants (you can thank the basil and garlic).  Any other green used is bound to provide great nutrition as well.  The nuts and olive oil provide a healthy dose of fats.  The cheese adds some protein and a little saturated fat, but not too much.

9)      It’s beautiful.
The crushed basil gives pesto a brilliant green color—sure to add “pop” to any meal.

10)   It’s good with anything and everything (except, maybe frosting)!
Use it to top pastas, spread on sandwiches, replace pizza sauce, add to scrambled eggs, liven up roasted veggies, top meats, or layer on bruschetta!  Let your imagination run wild—it will be good!