Hey pesto!

[Recipe 1] SPINACH, WALNUT and ROASTED GARLIC PESTO transforms into
The school holidays have come to an end. Sidney, my scrumptious 5-year old, starts school for the first time tomorrow – his little uniform is sitting on the couch and it makes me well up just looking at it. I’m back at work tomorrow too, so cooking for me at the moment is all about stocking the freezer with easy bits and pieces for quick dinners.
I know there are probably one billion pesto recipes floating around in cyberspace, but mine is pretty ace, even if I do say so myself. The walnuts and roasted garlic make it extra tasty, and it’s full of vitamins as there is a load of spinach mooshed up in it too. Pesto freezes really well, and also keeps excellently in the fridge for up to 1 week. There is no need to add a layer of oil as some recommend. This pesto retains its vibrant green colour due to the splash of lemon juice. I prefer to add the parmesan to the pasta later as pesto keeps better without it.
My boys absolutely love pesto pasta, and it’s easy to add a few vegies to the pasta cooking water, such as peas; or even tiny broccoli florets.
This recipe makes 3 generous serves of pesto, so you can set some aside for two different pesto pizzas later in the week; one for mature tastebuds with roasted cauliflower and chilli; and a kid-friendly version with bocconcini and cherry tomatoes, which we like to call ‘the fancy margherita’. My wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough recipe is here. I make this dough often, and the pizza bases freeze well (see tips in the recipe).
PS. Do you like my ‘tablecloth’? It’s actually wallpaper. I’m extremely excited as I found a huge book of vintage wallpaper swatches in my local oppie last week. Be prepared for some kooky table covers in the coming weeks! 

Spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto[Recipe 1] Spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto

Pesto ingredients (serves 4 for 3 meals):
1 cup (100g) walnuts, chopped
3 tightly-packed cups (100g) baby spinach leaves, chopped
4 tightly-packed cups (3 large bunches) basil leaves
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 cup (250 ml) olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Ingredients for tonight’s pasta:
400g (14 oz) dried spaghetti
1 cup frozen baby peas (or fresh peas)
50g (1¾ oz) parmesan cheese, grated, plus extra (shaved) to serve
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 150°C (300ºF). Wrap unpeeled garlic cloves in foil and roast for 40 minutes. Set aside.
Whizz the walnuts with a stick blender (in batches) or food processor until finely chopped – take care not to blend them for too long or you’ll end up with a paste. They should retain some texture. Set aside.
Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves from their skins and add to the remaining pesto ingredients. Blend in batches, with a couple of tablespoons oil added each time. Place into a large bowl as you go. Add the crushed walnuts and mix thoroughly.
Divide pesto into 3 portions of approximately 150g (5 oz); or 2 portions of 150g (5 oz) and 2 half portions of 75g (2½ oz). You’ll need 1 full portion of pesto for tonight’s spaghetti. The rest can be frozen – see tips below recipe.
Cook spaghetti in boiling water until al dente. Add peas to the same pot for the last 2 minutes cooking time (if using fresh peas, add to the pot for the last 4 minutes). Drain spaghetti and peas,
reserving ¼ cup of the cooking water, and place into a large bowl.
Add 1 full portion of spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto, parmesan and reserved cooking water; and toss together. Season to taste. Serve immediately, scattered with extra shaved parmesan.

  • Pesto can be stored in a tightly-sealed container in the fridge for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge. When using pesto with pasta, add parmesan just before serving. Pesto keeps better without the parmesan added.
  • Smaller pesto portions (for sandwiches, salad dressings and scrambled eggs) can be frozen in ice cube trays. Transfer the frozen cubes to a plastic container, and pop back in the freezer.
  • Both the garlic cloves for the pesto and the cauliflower for the pizza can be roasted up to 2 days in advance. They can be baked alongside other vegetables and stored in a container in the fridge until required. 
  • The basil and spinach leaves should be very well dried after washing so your pesto isn’t too watery. You can use a salad spinner, or pat them dry with a clean tea towel. Don’t worry about bruising the leaves – you’ll be pulverising them anyway!
  • This recipe can be varied by replacing the walnuts with cashews, pine nuts or pistachio nuts.
  • Baby tip: You can make pesto for older babies at the same time, by blending a handful of spinach leaves (about 60g/2 oz), 1 large basil leaf and a small undrained 95g (3 oz) can of low-salt tuna in springwater (or a small cooked fish fillet and a splash of water). Freeze in ice cube trays and defrost as needed. Serve with couscous (blended if required).

Pesto, cherry tomato and bocconcini pizzaPesto, roast cauliflower and chilli pizza

[Recipe 2] Two different pesto pizzas

Ingredients (serves 4–6):
1 quantity wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough, or 2 large store-bought pizza bases
250g (9 oz) home-made pizza sauce, or tomato passata (puree)
♦ Half portion (75g/2½ oz) reserved spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto

Pizza 1: Bocconcini, pesto and cherry tomato (‘fancy margherita’).
6 cherry bocconcini*, halved

8–10 cherry tomatoes (or mini Roma tomatoes), halved
Fresh basil leaves, chopped, for scattering
Pizza 2: Roast cauliflower, pesto and chilli
¼ cauliflower, cut into florets (about 1 cup florets)
½ tablespoon olive oil, for roasting the cauliflower
6 cherry bocconcini, halved

½–1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (to taste)

Preheat oven to 250°C (480ºF).
Place two pizza trays into the hot oven to warm up, for at least 10 minutes. This is an important step for crispy-based pizzas.
If using home-made wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough, sprinkle flour on a sheet of baking paper. Roll out and press each dough ball into a rectangle. Make the dough as thin as you can, as it will puff up a bit in the oven.
Spread each pizza base with home-made pizza sauce, or tomato passata.
♦ Drizzle each with spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto.
For pizza 1: Top prepared pizza base with bocconcini and cherry tomatoes.
For pizza 2: Blanch the cauliflower florets in a pot of boiling water, covered, for 2–3 minutes. Drain. Dry thoroughly in a clean tea towel. Place into a bowl and toss with the olive oil until well-coated. Arrange the florets on a baking tray lined with baking paper (you can use one of the pizza trays). Sprinkle with salt. Roast in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Top prepared pizza base with bocconcini halves, followed by roast cauliflower, and chilli flakes.
Carefully slide pizzas and baking paper onto pre-heated pizza trays and bake for 10–12 minutes until bubbling. Cook separately if they don’t fit side by side.
You may need less cooking time if using pre-cooked store-bought pizza bases.
Remove from oven. Scatter pizza 1 with fresh basil. Serve pizzas immediately.

  • Bocconcini are small, white mozzarella cheese balls, packaged in water. Cherry bocconcini are very small, the size of a cherry strangely enough! They’re available at most large supermarkets and delicatessens. Replace with sliced mozzarella if unavailable.
  • Leftover pizza is of course excellent for lunch the next day!

38 thoughts on “Hey pesto!

  1. Well Sas- another receipe saw the light of day in my kitchen! I fiollow your receipes in some strange order that has something to do with what I feel like cooking,. Every week I work out my weekly menu and get onto your blog to try out a new receipe and leftover. Last week it was the pesto which was great. I actually love having it in the freezer and bringing it out for mini pizza for my daughter (Harriet) which I have already done.
    As it is still on the hot side (yay!)- this week will see me trying out the amaranth salad- I am keen to understand the alternate grains a little better- being a little ancient myself I am sure we will get on just fine!

    • ACE Fran. Thanks so much. Really rapt you tried the pesto. I nearly always have it in the freezer. Starting to panic that basil season is nearly over. Will have to make a double batch to freeze for Winter! Look forward to your thoughts on the amaranth salad. We just love it.

  2. Pingback: Coriander Pesto | A Recipe for Pasta Sauce | Craft it. Bake it.

  3. YES! I have been looking for a pesto recipe after getting my new blender last weekend, the SPINACH, WALNUT and ROASTED GARLIC PESTO is happening, and I have a feeling it’s gunna taste amazing, thanks for the recipe, I will let you know how it goes! (also, your pictures are so good, what camera do you use?)

    • Ace. Hope you enjoy it! I use a Nikon D3100 + 18-55mm lens. It’s not particularly fancy, but I LOVE it. The best purchase I made was a small light tent set-up (from ebay) that lets me shoot indoors. I love photographing food outdoors, but I was finding it impossible to shoot early enough in Winter!

      • It was scrummy, still got lots left over too! I sold my SLR during hard times, but i may have to do the same thing as I always seem to craft and bake just as its getting dark! any particular tent you would recommend ? x

        • Great you made the pesto – thanks so much for the pingback! The tent setup I bought was titled a ‘Photo studio light tent’, which came with lights and a boom arm. There are lots of sets on Ebay (none listed from the seller I bought mine from though). They’re all pretty similar-looking. My tent is medium-sized, about 70cm square, and was around $AU100. SO handy – I love it.

  4. Oh my goodness! This LOOKS INSANELY delicious! I think I am inspired enough to do an italian-style dinner party and feature both the pizzas and pasta! YUM!! Is it terrible that this makes me crave pizza and it’s breakfast time? hehe


  5. oh pesto, I love it! I must confess that I didn’t know about non-basil pesto until last year! Now I love to use chard or spinach. Yours sounds divine!

  6. Great recipes! I especially love that pasta …and I can’t wait to see all of your table covers! Hope your boy’s first week at school is going well x

  7. Oh my, those pizzas look divine! We’re on a real home made pizza kick at the moment … so easy for me to whip up after work … I will definitely be bookmarking your pesto recipe to try.

  8. Oh my god, these 2 recipes look fantasticly crazy good! I love your 1st pesto & your 2 pizza’s sound extremely tasty! 🙂
    I especially love the sound of the roasted cauliflower, pesto & chili adaption! Yummmmm!
    I love your bright yellow wallpaper a lot! That’ s my favourite colour: bright yellow! I am a sunny girl! 😉

  9. Oh goodness, your pizza is so colorful and looks so delicious. I love all the recipes. I love pesto. I make a spinach pea pesto that is pretty popular around here! I love your cauliflower pesto with the addition of the red chili flakes…what a wonderful addition!! I need to try that next time!

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