Homemade pestos are a fabulous way to experiment with flavours. It’s amazing how you don’t ‘miss’ the cheese in the below recipe as the walnuts, spinach and sundried tomato combination is so fragrant it 'speaks' for itself. My sister's signature pesto features brazil nuts and rocket, but you could also mix any nuts available with basil, olive oil, salt and pepper for the same effect.
I perfer to eat this with zucchini noodles (made from shredding the zucchini into spaghetti with a spiraliser) as they are so light and fresh and really compliment the rich sauce; but of course you can make the dish with regular wheat, whole-grain or gluten-free pasta. I have also added chicken to the below, but if you are vegetarian you could easily replace this with a cup of cooked chickpeas.
For the pesto:
A handful of fresh spinach
5 basil leaves
1 clove of garlic
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper
¼ cup of walnuts
¼ cup sundried tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
For the rest:
2 chicken breasts (optional)
a handful of fresh basil (torn)
6 cherry tomatoes (chopped)
1 tbsp of mixed seeds
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 Celsius/350 Fahrenheit.
2. First make the pesto – this is literally a question of chucking the above ingredients into a small blender/food processor and blitzing it until it has a smooth, creamy texture.
3. Place your chicken breasts in an oven dish and drizzle with a little oil, lemon juice and a pinch of black pepper. Cook for about 15-20 minutes (or longer depending on their size). Once cooked, remove from the oven (but keep in the dish) and slice into bite-sized pieces.
4. After letting the chicken / oven dish cool for about 5 minutes, throw in the chopped tomatoes, basil, seeds and 2 tablespoons of the pesto, and then toss in the zoodles and mix well. I would recommend leaving the zucchini raw – as they have such a high water content, cooking them can be risky and they can turn into gloop instantly.
5. If you are using chickpeas, then you can roast them too to crisp them up: bake them in the oven at 180 Celsius / 350 Fahrenheit for 5-7 minutes covered in a little olive oil and squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper. Then add the pesto, basil, tomatoes, seeds and zoodles as above.
6. Serve up with some freshly torn basil sprinkled on top.
NB. This recipe yields about 4 tablespoon’s worth of pesto, so just pop what you don’t use in an airtight container in the fridge and consume within 5 days.