Pesto Sauce

I love pesto sauce, but have always been too intimidated to try making it.  However, I was on a basil kick after the success of the Quinoa Caprese Salad (and I still had that leftover Parmesan cheese), so I decided it was time to conquer my fears.

I used this recipe.

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor.  (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.)  Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.

Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Serve with pasta, or over baked potatoes, or spread over toasted baguette slices.  Makes 1 cup.

Pesto sauce in the food processor

I used 1/2 cup of pine nuts, since that’s the size of the only bag of them that I could find (for $3.99, yikes!)  I discovered after the fact that walnuts can be used instead — much, much cheaper.

I didn’t think that all of the ingredients would fit into my baby food processor at once, but I quickly realized how small the basil gets once it’s processed.  The pesto tasted slightly more oily than I would have liked — not sure if that’s how it’s supposed to taste — but next time, I think I’ll use slightly less oil.  But overall, it was yummy.

Justine shared the awesome idea of freezing the pesto in ice cube trays — they really do pop out easily!  Now I have six servings ready to go in plastic baggies in the freezer.

Pesto sauce in ice cube trays

And of course, I was pleased to be able to grate some leftover Parmesan on top of the spaghetti 🙂

Spaghetti with pesto sauce and Parmesan cheese

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Quinoa Caprese Salad

Where do I begin?  First of all, I had no idea that quinoa even existed until I stumbled upon Justine’s Pinterest page.  And I only learned how to pronounce it because she mentioned it in the office.

How did I make it this long in my life without it?  It is delicious and super easy to make.

Quinoa Caprese Salad

Here is the recipe.  It made three large servings.

1 cup quinoa, cooked and cooled
1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced
1 English cucumber, sliced
6 oz fresh mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
black pepper

Cook quinoa according to package directions, cool.  Chop and slice veggies and cheese, add to quinoa.  Toss mixture with olive oil, vinegar and black pepper.

My Tweaks:

  • The 5.46 oz package of roasted garlic quinoa that I used made about 1 3/4 cups cooked quinoa — I just used it all.
  • I used 8 oz of fresh mozzarella (hey, that’s how big the package was, and who doesn’t like more cheese?).
  • I drizzled a little more balsamic vinegar on top.

Thoughts:

  • I will probably use a regular cucumber next time.  At $2.50 each, I don’t think an English cucumber is really worth the extra cost (regular cucumbers currently cost 99 cents each, less in the summer, even less at the local Hispanic market).  The dish seemed a little cucumber-heavy, but at the same time, cucumbers are super healthy and very filling.
  • Is there really only one brand of quinoa?  $2.99 (sale price) for 1 3/4 cups cooked seems pretty pricey.  The brand I bought also has a “black bean” flavor.  Does it come in larger packages?  Maybe in health food stores?

Conclusion:  While I already knew that tomato, basil, and mozzarella could do no wrong, the additional of the light and fluffy quinoa makes for an easy, light, healthy, and quite refreshing meal!