By Brandon McDearis
When my good friend and local Registered Dietitian Carol Land recently gave me an abundance of basil out of her garden, I began to think quickly about how to make use of every little bit before its short life on the shelf came to an end. Once you pick fresh basil, then the clock starts ticking rapidly, and there is not long before you are left with a soft, wilted, and brown corpse of a plant. In addition to whipping up a batch of basil oil, I also decided to make the classic pesto sauce. Pesto is great to have on hand in the kitchen, because it can be an easy fix to a quick meal, when used as a spread for a sandwich, a marinade for fish and chicken, or as a way to season vegetables. It also keeps well in the fridge and can be frozen for months. If I come home after a long day and need a healthy meal prepared in a few minutes, then I am almost guaranteed to have the ingredients sitting around to throw together a tomato pesto pasta. This recipe can be a filling entree, especially if prepared with chicken or shrimp, but it also makes a great side dish that is an excellent source of fiber. It serves 8.
• 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
• 3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Combine the basil in with the pine nuts and pulse a few times in a food processor. Add the garlic, 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 the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Makes 1 cup.
Note: If you have spinach or arugula sitting around the fridge that needs to get used up, then adding it into your pesto is a great way to make use of it, and a great way to slip nutrients into your diet. Just make sure to measure them and adjust the rest of the pesto ingredients accordingly.
Whole Wheat Penne
• 12–16 oz. whole wheat penne pasta cooked according to package directions
• 1 small yellow onion, diced
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 3 Roma tomatoes, medium, diced
• ¼ cup white wine
• ½ cup pesto
• salt and pepper to taste
• ¼ cup Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1. While boiling the pasta, sauté the onion and garlic in a pan at medium-high heat until it becomes soft and translucent. Toss in the tomatoes for about 30 seconds, add the white wine, and continue tossing for another 30 seconds.
- Remove from heat and set aside until pasta has been strained. Then add the mixture to the pasta, along with the pesto. Mix thoroughly, season with salt and pepper, and then top with Parmesan/Romano cheese.
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Brandon McDearis is a personal chef working in the Charlotte area. He currently owns and operates Your Way Cuisine, www.yourwaycuisine.com. In addition to his culinary training, Brandon also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in foods and nutrition, with a concentration in dietetics. He primarily focuses on healthy cooking and addressing specific dietary needs of everyone from professional and amateur athletes, to busy families and elderly people.