Pasta and pesto has long been a staple in our house, especially when I need something NOW! Although it's not unhealthy, I've long wished it was that bit more nutritious than it is i.e. a few more vitamins and protein. I also thought using fresh ingredients would improve the dish from a taste perspective and again increase the nutritional benefit. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I've taken to either making my own pesto (which is honestly a five minute job!), or if even that is too much, adding raw (undetectable!) spinach to jarred pesto.
Homemade Pesto Recipe
1/2 large clove of garlic (I've tried the full clove which some others recommend, but find it can be overbearing)
25g of Parmesan or similar (I've even used cheddar before and seemed perfectly acceptable to the kids!)
50ml of olive oil
handful of pine kernels or cashew nuts
1/2 packet of basil leaves
Wizz in 75g of spinach in the food processor (yes raw... keep the vitamins in there!)
Try adding a few walnuts for a nuttier flavour
I've been known to add a few watercress leaves (a superfood hugely rich in iron and vitamin C)
Chuck it all together in a food processor until it forms a smooth paste.
Keep tasting to check the balance of flavour and add more of individual ingredients to taste e.g. salt, basil, etc...
Other recipes will tell you to toast the pine kernels, but I honestly see very little benefit to this when the children are waiting for food and you manage to burn the third batch because you keep forgetting to take them out after 4 minutes.
I always make a batch and then use little kids weaning pots to freeze serving-sized amounts. That way I just boil the pasta and stick one pot in with it when I'm in a hurry, safe in the knowledge that it tastes better and is waaay more nutritious than the jarred variety :-)
Fresh pesto is also a great way to liven up dishes for adults. Whilst amazingly simple, it looks and tastes really vibrant, so splodge some on your risotto, though your pasta, on a pizza or on some bruschetta to impress your guests!
I had my wrist slapped once by the school for giving my son pasta and pesto in his lunch box because there were pine kernels in the pesto; in all honestly I hadn't considered this as part of the school's no-nut policy (a policy which many schools have). Anyway, if you are keen, you can make your own pesto without nuts or seeds, and use this as part of a policy-compliant, lunchtime pasta dish.
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