Tag Archives: pesto

Recipe: Watercress and Avocado Pesto


If I was asked what my number one tip for a new vegetarian would be, I wouldn’t hesitate to advocate for the inclusion of large amounts of green leafy vegetables, especially for women. My favourite cooked green vegetable is kale (how fashionable!), my favourite raw green leafy source is watercress. I don’t know if it’s appeared on the Daily Mail’s ‘superfood’ list yet, but it has more vitamin C than oranges and more calcium than cow’s milk. It’s strong, peppery flavour means you can get interesting tasting salads without having to load up with dressings.

The British watercress season is just starting and if you can get an independent brand of watercress like John Hurd’s, I urge you to try it. It’s more expensive but I think the increase in flavour makes it worth it.

I’ve put it in an easy pesto here. It would work with hot pasta or on a pasta salad. It tastes so good you won’t worry about how good it is for you!

 photo Watercress20amp20avocado20pesto_zpsyf0i6jb1.jpg

80g watercress
1/2 large, ripe avocado
1/2 pack of basil leaves
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced

Add the ingredients to a food processor and process on pulse until they form a smooth paste.
Remove from the bowl and season carefully (it won’t take much).
Serve over hot pasta.
Serves 2

Recipe: Beetroot and Walnut Pesto


This has to be one of the weirdest combinations my food-obsessed brain has come up with, but it works. The earthy sweetness of the beetroot is complemented by the dryness of the walnuts, the saltiness of the olives and then highlighted by the fragrant dill.

It is also pink.

If anyone decides to use this as a dinner-party item, please put Barbie Pasta on the menu.

Beetroot Pesto photo DSCN1142_zps6080b047.jpg

150g spaghetti
2 pre-cooked beetroots
1 clove garlic
50g walnuts
6 black olives
2 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp dill, chopped

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water.
Put all the ingredients except the dill into a food processor and whizz until smooth.
Season with salt and pepper.
When the pasta is cooked, drain it and then return to the warm pan.
Stir in the sauce until all the pasta is coated.
Serve with the dill sprinkled over the top.

Serves 2

Recipe: Pasta with Vegan Pesto


This is a great way of using one fresh ingredient with some from the store cupboard to create something fresh and delicious. I’ve used parsley here, but a mixture of herbs would do, or some green salad vegetable like spinach or watercress. If I can’t be bothered getting the little food processor out, I do a deconstructed version of this by just roughly chopping everything and tossing it into the pasta.

Pasta with vegan pesto photo DSCN0673_zps63491c04.jpg

1 clove garlic
8 black olives
1 1/2 tbsp capers
1 small pack of parsley (or other herbs to equivalent amount)
3 sundried tomato halves + 2 tbsp of the oil

While the pasta of your choice is cooking, put the ingredients in a food processor and whizz until smooth.
Season with salt and pepper.
When the pasta is cooked, drain and then put back in the pan.
Stir in the sauce until the pasta is properly coated.
Serve on warmed dishes.

Serves 2

Recipe: Pasta with Mint and Parsley Pesto


There are some winter days when curling up in front of the fire with a warm, hearty stew is the best way of celebrating the season, of revelling in the now of the cold and seasonal ingredients. And there are some winter days, like today, when a bitter wind shakes a few flakes of snow from the iron-grey clouds and you want to be reminded of sun, warm days and gentle breezes.

We should, of course, be all about seasonal ingredients, but this fresh pesto only takes a couple of packets of herbs and some store-cupboard staples and you have summer in a bowl. Every winter deserves a couple of those, I think.

pasta with mint pesto

160g pasta
40g frozen peas
1 clove garlic
20g pine nuts
10g fresh parsley
10g fresh mint
10g vegetarian italian hard cheese, grated
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice (optional)

Add the pasta boiling water and cook according to the packet instructions
Half-way through the pasta cooking time add the peas.
Put the rest of the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. This is a small enough amount to bash together with a mortar and pestle if you feel in need of the exercise.
Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper.
When the pasta and peas are cooked, drain well.
Put them back in the pan, add the sauce and mix.
Serve immediately, with a wedge of lemon to add to taste.

Serves 2

Recipe: Deconstructed pesto


I’m in the market for quick and nutritious meals at the moment, thanks to the work situation and persevering with Slimming World. The latter would probably clobber pesto with a bazillion syns, but it has to count for perhaps one of the quickest meals on the planet.

At its best, pesto looks vibrant and tastes fresh and zingy. At its worst, it comes across as a sludgy oily gloop. I think I’ve tasted every supermarket brand, plus most of the ones that come in jars (organic labels are no guarantee of quality), and with one exception I wouldn’t touch them with a bargepole. They tend to taste of nothing in particular.

And I’m not overly enthusiastic about variations on the theme either – I’m a purist and like my pesto to have basil, pine nuts and parmesan in. Permutations of spinach, coriander, mint, parsley and pecorino don’t do it for me.

The parmesan is obviously an issue for those of us who are strict vegetarians. And I’m not brave enough to try vegan substitutes – life is too short and all of that … I have to admit that decent parmesan is the one thing I miss, although the Bookhams vegetarian cheese for pasta is probably as good as we’re going to get.  It does, though, lack that distinctive salty tang that makes real parmesan so irresistible.

That one shop-bought exception, by the way, is the Waitrose green pesto, and it’s pretty damn good, although it’s a bit heavy on the oil. You can see the pine nuts in it. And you can taste the basil and the cheese. Forget their red chilli pesto (which, sadly, comes packaged in a trio with two single portions of the green pesto and which is brilliant to chuck in the freezer for emergencies) as all you get is a lingering after-burn and a vague taste of greasy tomato.

Yes, I could make my own pesto, but my blender has just rolled over and died – and cleaning gunged-up kitchen equipment isn’t high on my list of pleasures, especially when I’m packaging this blog entry as fast food. And anyway, I can recommend a cunning make-your-own version which simply requires one pan to be wiped clean.

This little gem is a deconstructed pesto where you can taste every single element of what goes into it. And you can make it in the last few minutes while the pasta cooks. It’s obviously a lot dryer than conventional pesto, but there’s no over-powering taste of oil to it. And you can vary the amounts depending on what you prefer – I tend to up the amount of lemon zest. Slimming World won’t like the pine nuts or dessertspoon of olive oil to warm the garlic in, but I’d rather take the hit on syns than leave out the former (and I am always woefully low on protein) or substitute the latter. This is a dish where you want good ingredients.

Pasta (farfalle is good, as it won’t overpower the different elements)


Pine nuts

Lemon zest and lemon juice


Veggie parmesan

While the pasta is cooking, toast a small handful of pine nuts in a dry pan. Then add a dribble of olive oil to the hot pan and warm the crushed garlic through. Don’t let it colour. I use a clove per person. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and mix in the pinenuts, garlic, the zest and juice of half a lemon and a large handful of basil. I don’t add salt, but I do grind some black pepper over it. Then grate the veggie parmesan over the top.

I can’t remember where the recipe came from – I’ve a feeling it was from one of the female chefs in the BBC Good Food magazine. But it’s a keeper and I make it constantly …