Flavorful Recipes for Parsley Pesto and Avocado Pesto

Pesto Image

Try these tasty pesto recipes from Chef Meg Galvin, who develops recipes for SparkPeople.com—a leading diet, fitness and healthy living website, and teaches cooking at the Midwest Culinary Institute in Cincinnati.

Flavorful pesto has long been a go-to sauce for good reason: It's versatile enough to toss with pasta, top off chicken or fish, or spread on a crusty baguette. But this culinary classic also has downsides—it's high in fat and calories, and typical ingredients such as pine nuts and basil can push up the price.

With a few clever swaps and additions, though, you can give this saucy staple a welcome makeover. Try these two new perspectives on pesto now!

Parsley Pesto

Yields 1 cup (16 1-Tbsp servings)

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp olive oil
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 Tbsp whole-wheat or panko bread crumbs
1/2 tsp black pepper

  1. Place chopped parsley in a small food processor and pulse 6–8 times.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and process until a thick sauce is formed.

Per serving 11 calories, 0 g protein, 1 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 1 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 5 mg sodium

Helpful hints: Choose flat leaf parsley over the curly kind for fuller flavor and easier chopping. Wash and dry herbs before chopping to keep your cutting board germ free.

Avocado Pesto

Yields 1 1/2 cups (12 2-Tbsp servings)

1 avocado, pitted and chopped
1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 garlic cloves
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 Tbsp room temperature water

  1. Combine all of the ingredients except the water into a food processor or blender.
  2. Puree, adding water to thin the sauce slightly.

Per serving 31 calories, 0 g protein, 2 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 3 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 41 mg sodium

Helpful hint: Squeeze lemon or lime juice on leftover avocado to help it stay green.

Chef Meg's Top 3 Pesto Tips

  1. Parsley and basil turn brown quickly, so treat them as you would a bunch of flowers. To keep leaves moist, trim stems and place in a glass with an inch of water; cover with a zip-top bag. Keep in fridge.
  2. Smash peeled garlic cloves with the flat side of a chef's knife, then slice in half and let your food processor do the rest of the work. If you see a green stem, pull it out, as it can impart a bitter taste.
  3. Use pesto right away, or store it for up to 24 hours in the fridge. For maximum flavor, place a piece of plastic wrap on the sauce's surface, then cover with container lid. Freeze for longer storage times.

Source: From our sister publication Remedy's Healthy Living Spring 2013

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 21 Feb 2013

Last Modified: 21 Feb 2013