If you're looking to eat more plants in the new year (and beyond), you might assume that entails eating vegetables 24/7. But there are other delicious ways to meet your plant quota without sweating over a hot stove or turning on the oven. "Pesto is one of my all-time favorite plant-loving secrets," healthy food blogger and Healthier Together author Liz Moody shares in Well+Good’s 2021 ReNew Year program. She says the delicious, versatile sauce can be used in many ways outside of pasta, including in salads, on quesadillas, with eggs, as a pizza base, paired with veggies for an afternoon snack.
Pesto's versatility is one reason why Moody likes to make a big batch of it at the beginning of the week. It's also a delicious way to up your plant-based food intake. "I make my pesto with leafy greens and a big handful of raw nuts or seeds," Moody says. She adds that it's also an opportunity to experiment with inflammation-fighting herbs in your pantry, which not only make the pesto more flavorful but also up the nutrient density. "I use a few garlic cloves in mine, but I also like to make variations, such as adding rosemary," she says.
Watch the video below to see why garlic is so good for you, according to a registered dietitian:
Since Moody's pesto recipe is made with leafy greens, it means you're adding more fiber to your meal with each spoonful of the herby green sauce. It also gives your meal more protein, since all nuts and seeds are high in the nutrient.
While traditional pesto is typically made with fresh basil and pine nuts, Moody likes to experiment with different types of nuts, seeds, and herbs when making her sauce and encourages others to do the same. But regardless of her in-the-moment tweaks, she's always consistent with using leafy greens as a base along with olive oil, which is rich in healthy fats. "I also like to add a touch of honey," Moody says, as a fun, wildcard ingredient to try.
Whatever specific ingredients you land on, it really only takes five minutes to make your own plant-based pesto to have on hand to use through the rest of the week. Below, Moody shares her standard go-to pesto recipe to get started, but reiterates that you can switch out the types of nuts/seeds and herbs with whatever you already have or want to experiment with.
2-minute spinach pesto recipe
2 cups packed spinach
1 cup raw pecans (or other nut/seed of your choice)
2 sprigs rosemary leaves
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 Tbsp honey
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp fine grain sea salt
Generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. In a large skillet over medium heat, gently toast the pecans until fragrant and golden, about two to three minutes. Add the pecans to a food processor with the spinach, rosemary, garlic, honey, lemon, salt, and black pepper.
2. Process until smooth, then drizzle in the olive oil, starting with one-fourth cup, and process until smooth and desired thickness. Serve as a dip with your favorite crudites. Store in the fridge for four to five days. Enjoy!
Get more plant-based recipe ideas in Well+Good's Cook With Us Facebook group.
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