November 12, 2012

Basil Pepita Pesto

My kids are a bit of an anomaly.  They aren't big fans of spaghetti and tomato sauce -- at least done my way -- so that takes away a really easy dinner option for us.  And since we already need to avoid all dairy products and nuts, you know that there are plenty of other quick and easy meals that are already banned from our menu!  In truth they don't mind pasta so much but they are not huge fans of marinara.  And the sauteed vegetables that I sneak into generic spaghetti sauce aren't winning any points with the kids either.

So I've been looking for ways to make a healthier, tastier pasta dish.  I decided to think outside of the tomato box and have been checking out pesto recipes.  Pesto is usually made with some sort of nut (usually pine nuts) and cheese such as parmesan.  Any given restaurant pesto sauce would be a no-go for my milk-allergic, nut-allergic boys.  Thanks to the internet, all sorts of variations can be found!  It just becomes a matter of choosing which recipes suit your tastes and food allergies.

I was drawn to a raw recipe from the blog kale and kass (with a side of sass) because it uses seeds and vitamin B12-fortified nutritional yeast flakes.  My family follows a mostly plant-based diet so a sauce that is rich in protein, iron, and B12 -- stuff that is a little harder to come by when you take meat out of your diet -- is music to my ears!  Instead of kale, I substituted fresh basil for the kale because, in my mind, pesto just isn't pesto without a fragrant herb in its midst. While the flavor ended up being pretty good, the texture that my weak food processor could produce was unacceptable.  It was impossible for my food processor to get a smooth consistency out of whole seeds.  The end result was really coarse and I kept getting seed stuck in my teeth.  Ouch.

Because I liked the flavor so much, I tried the recipe again but changed out raw pumpkin seeds and, instead, opted for roasted pepitas, the inner, edible parts of pumpkin seeds.  Much better texture and the taste was great! 

Basil Pepita Pesto
Adapted from kale and kass' Kale and Pumpkin Seed Pesto

2 cups pepitas, roasted
2 packed cup of basil leaves
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
2 Tbsp chopped fresh garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup water
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
  1. Put all ingredients except for the sale in a food processor.  Process until pepitas are smooth, pausing occasionally to stir and scrape down the sides.  Add more water if necessary.  
  2. When you have achieved the consistency you like, taste to see if you want to add salt.  I used roasted, salted pepitas so I did not add any extra salt.  Add, taste to see if you want to add more basil, nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor, lemon juice, or garlic.  When in doubt, add more garlic...
  3. The pesto will be very thick.  Spread it on toast or spoon into baked potatoes.  When using pesto with pasta, reserve some hot water from just-boiled pasta to toss with the pesto and noodles.
How did my kids like the pesto?  Eh.  They enjoyed the novelty of the taste for one meal.  After that, they weren't interested in it.  Bummer.  The search for a kid-winner pasta sauce continues for me...but at least you and your kids some safe and easy pesto yourselves!


  1. I've always wanted to research an allergy-safe pesto for the kids (mostly cuz I love and miss it!). Will try this and let you know!

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