Presto! Pesto!

pesto 2

Blog post by Cheryl Berkowitz, Certified Holistic Health Counselor and Health Coach

Traditionally prepared in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle, pesto can easily be made in a food processor with delectable results. Likewise, traditionally served on pasta, pesto can be served on just about anything to pack a flavor punch. It goes great on toast or crackers, in a sandwich, on pizza, on grilled meats and fish, tossed with steamed veggies, as a salad dressing, in scrambled eggs, and as a garnish for soups. And of course, it goes great on pasta, too! As far as ingredients go, think of the traditional recipe as a template for endless variations.

Pesto also happens to be a nutritional powerhouse. Really, it’s all goodness! Chock full of basil (or other fresh greens or green herbs), extra virgin olive oil, nuts or seeds, garlic, sea salt, and good quality cheese (or go with a dairy-free vegan version!), pesto is such a simple, fresh, flavorful palate of ingredients containing so many phyto-nutrients and healthy benefits.

Traditional Pesto


  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesano-Reggiano or Romano cheese

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts

  • 3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


1 Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. Add the garlic and cheese and pulse a few times more.

2 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 a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Store in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week. Pesto freezes well. Freeze in ice cube trays, and then store frozen pesto cubes in plastic freezer bags in freezer for up to 6 months. Pesto may also be frozen in small jars or plastic containers for up to 9-12 months.

Anything Goes Pesto


  • 1/4 cup nuts, such as walnuts, pine nuts or sunflower kernels

  • 2 cups packed chopped raw herbs/greens, such as basil, kale or parsley

  • 1/2 cup grated hard cheese, such as Parmesan or Romano (or leave the cheese out and go dairy-free!)

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice or lemon zest (optional)

  • 1 tablespoon water (optional)

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

At Smart Lunches, our nut-free pesto made with sunflower seeds and all the right stuff is regularly on the menu, served on pasta and as a sandwich spread. Buon appetito!

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