Is pesto healthy? Please say yes! I’m growing basil in my yard and have so much!
~ Erica P.
Perfect timing with this question. I finished my plot in Conshohocken’s community garden a little over two weeks ago, and I think it’s safe to say that everyone there is growing basil in their space. I have it on my porch, too. It’s definitely one of the easiest herbs to grow, maintain and enjoy!
To answer your question, I would say that pesto is definitely healthy. For starters, basil is green and green is always good when it comes to foods. Basil’s also an anti-inflammatory, fights free radicals (cancer cells) and supports cardiovascular health. The popular herb is also a good source of magnesium, calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C.
Paired together with all of the other ingredients that make a delicious pesto sauce (olive oil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and garlic), you’ll receive a healthy dose of nutrient-dense foods and omega-3 fatty acids. While it’s high in unsaturated (good) fat, you should know that fats still pack a higher caloric punch, so just make sure you don’t overdo it; a few tablespoons is all you need. And of course, when you can, it’s always best to this easy recipe yourself, as store-bought pestos can be high in sodium, often use hydrogenated oils, and sometimes contain artificial colors and even monosodium glutamate (MSG). And since you’re growing basil at home, there’s no excuse not to be making this from scratch.
Not sure what to do with all the rest of the basil you’ve got? Below are three fresh basil recipes to carry you through the summer.
Creamy Basil Pesto and Eggplant Rolls
Add ¼ cup ricotta cheese to any traditional pesto recipe. Grill eggplant slices lengthwise. Stack eggplant, more fresh basil leaves and a spoonful of creamy pesto. Roll and secure with a toothpick. Yum!
Yup. Trade the mint for basil. Voila!
You’ll need two cloves garlic, 1 cup basil, and 3 cups olive oil. Peel and smash garlic. Muddle basil. Combine in a mason jar. Heat olive oil over a low flame until very warm, but not to the point of bubbling or boiling. Pour olive oil over herbs in the jar. Cover and store in a cool dark place for one week. Then strain ingredients and store oil in cool, dry place. What a great hostess gift for summer BBQs!
>> What are your favorite basil recipes? Share ‘em in the comments.
Maura Manzo is a yoga teacher and health coach specializing in integrating diet, health and wellness. She supports others in becoming their best possible selves. Maura is available for private instruction and coaching, as well as on-site corporate classes and speaking engagements. She is co-creator of the Beyond Asana 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training and the Art of Letting Go: Maya Tulum Mexican Yoga Vacation. Learn more about her teaching schedule, coaching practice and yoga trainings at MauraManzo.com.