Traditional pesto is a vibrant blend of basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan or Romano cheese and olive oil. The term “pesto” comes from the Italian word pestare, which means to pound or crush (you might be familiar with the mortar and pestle, the tools often used in the preparation of pesto). Pesto has countless applications in cooking – it can be tossed with warm pasta or gnocchi, swirled into mashed potatoes, added to steamed vegetables, and spooned onto toasted bread (bruschetta). You’ll never run out of ideas and it’s a quick cook’s best friend. Keep basil pesto in your refrigerator-arsenal for last minute meal solutions.
That said, you know I always mess with tradition. I’ve created countless pesto varieties, including parsley-walnut, watercress-almond, mint-pistachio, and cilantro-sesame, using toasted sesame seeds instead of nuts. This time, I really went bonkers and created red pesto. I took advantage of sweet and tangy roasted red peppers and then added the traditional basil, pine nuts, garlic and cheese. What’s missing is all the extra oil – it’s simply not needed because the peppers are so moist. Traditional basil pesto has about 75 calories and 7 grams of fat per tablespoon. My red pepper version has just 14 calories and less than 1 gram of fat per tablespoon! Pile it on!
Try this pesto over grilled or roasted chicken, fish, shellfish, pork and steak. You can even use it as a sandwich spread or condiment on a cheese and cracker tray.
Roasted Red Pepper Pesto
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 cups sliced roasted red peppers
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons water, or more as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the pine nuts in a small dry skillet and set the pan over medium heat. Cook 3-5 minutes, until the nuts are golden brown, shaking the pan frequently to prevent burning.
Transfer the pine nuts to a blender and add the red peppers, basil, garlic, parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons of the water. Process until smooth and thick, adding more water if necessary to create a thick paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Makes 1 1/2 cups
Nutrition Info Per Tablespoon
Total Fat: Saturated Fat: 0 grams
Total Carbohydrate: 1 gram
Sugars: 1 gram
Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 7 milligrams
Robin Miller is a nutritionist, host of Quick Fix Meals, author of “Robin Rescues Dinner” and the busy mom of two active little boys. Her boys and great food are her passion. Check her out at www.robinrescuesdinner.com.