It wasn’t that long ago that I tried pesto for the first time. On a whim I bought some, it was jarred and sitting next to the spaghetti sauces on the top shelf at the grocery store. I was a little hesitant to try it and the jar sat in my pantry for at least a month after I bought it. When I finally had the courage to try it (which is weird because I love trying new things) I opened the jar and noticed there was a layer of oil just floating on top of a green mass. So far I wasn’t impressed. Uncertain whether or not to stir the oil back into the pesto or pour it off I opted just to stir it back in. Finally I was ready to try it. I stuck the spoon back into the jar and scooped up a little bit of pesto. I ate it straight off the spoon and I was pleasantly surprise how wonderful it was. Prior to this experience I really hadn’t tried much basil before, but now I was in love with the garlic, basil, Parmesan cheese combination. Last summer Mom grew basil in her garden and canned plenty of pesto to enjoy during the off season. When I was planning out my garden, I knew without a doubt, basil would be included.
Last week my basil was finally big enough to harvest some leaves for my first batch of pesto. When I did my weekly grocery shopping trip I planned to get Parmesan cheese and pine nuts (I always have garlic on hand) for the pesto. Much to my surprise pine nuts were $29.99 per pound at Whole Foods. Eek! I knew they were a costly little seed but I was surprised at the actual price tag. Not wanting to spend that much I was just going to buy walnuts since I’ve used them before when making pesto. As I was reaching for the walnuts I saw the sunflower seeds and recalled I still have a small stash of them at home. So the walnuts went back on the shelf. The sunflower seeds I had were salted and roasted so I skipped adding any extra salt to my pesto. The pesto was quickly made in my food processor and tossed with some fettuccine. To make the meal a little more substantial I made some shrimp scampi (recipe here) to toss on top.
I think the sunflower seeds worked wonderfully in pesto. They are a really nutty tasting seed and combined with the Parmesan cheese and garlic I thought it was delicious. Have fun with your pesto and switch around which type or nuts or seeds you use. Give the sunflower seed pesto a try, I think you will like it. Do you have a favorite nut or seed you use in your pesto? Let me know in the comments.
BASIL & SUNFLOWER SEED PESTO
2-3 c Basil leaves
2-3 cloves garlic
1/3 c Parmesan cheese, grated
1/3 c roasted sunflower seeds (without the shell)
squeeze of 1/2 lemon
2-3 T olive oil, enough to loosen the mixture
Place everything besides the olive oil in the food processor or blender. Pulse until smooth. Turn food processor or blender on so it will continuously blend. Slowly stream in olive oil -just until the mixture is loose. Toss with cooked hot pasta. Enjoy!
*I like to reserve 1/4 c or so of the pasta cooking liquid to add to the pesto. This allows for it to coat the pasta easier without adding more oil.
OTHER DISHES WITH PESTO:
Deconstructed Pesto with Beet Greens & Garlic Scapes
Baby Bok Choy Pesto
Sausage and Spinach Lasagna Rolls with Pesto Tomato Sauce
Tuna and Pesto Sandwich
Spaghetti and Meatballs