Creamy Basil Pesto

In my initial post on FaceBook about starting this blog, I posted this picture and a few words about this dish.  I got some great feedback!  So, thank you to everyone who commented and to those interested in reading about my kitchen triumphs and disasters.  This will be the beginning of Salty & Sweet’s Summer Series!  I am aiming to post all about the cooking I do this summer using local, fresh and (hopefully) organic ingredients.

This dish was about repurposing leftovers and using what I had in the fridge.  I sometimes struggle with this and get caught up on using the exact ingredients in the recipes or making things the same way that I always have.  I’m trying to loosen up in my cooking, and in my life, so this was a good place to begin.

I used basil from my herb box to make a pesto sauce while cooking up some medium pasta shells.  Pesto, a sauce based on basil and garlic, is one of those sauces that you either love or hate.  I LOVE garlic and I grew up eating it in basically everything my mother created.  However, garlic can be a bit overpowering for the pickier palate if used raw in this type of sauce.  A tip to get rid of this rawness and overpowering taste is to roast the garlic first.  It adds and extra step, but definitely mellows the flavor and adds a sweetness to the sauce that is great for this type of dish.  If you need some brushing up on your garlic roasting skills, The Pioneer Woman does it well.

Pesto is also great for just keeping on hand and adding to your sandwiches, salad dressings, grilled meats, veggies and whatever else you can conjure up.  It also freezes well, so you can make some big batches of it and keep it on hand.  You honestly cannot go wrong with the major ingredients of basil, garlic, pecorino and olive oil!  The magic happens with a few dollops of greek yogurt added into the hot, drained pasta and combining with pesto.  I topped with leftover grilled asparagus, a grilled chicken breast and sauteed cherry tomatoes. It was delish!  IMG_2224

Creamy Basil Pesto Recipe:


2 cups of basil leaves (cleaned and trimmed – no stems)

2 cloves of garlic (raw or roasted)

2 T pignoli nuts

1/2 cup parmesan or pecorino cheese (I used pecorino — it has a little more bite)

1/2 cup high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 cup 2% greek yogurt (I enjoy Fage brand)

1/2 lb medium shells

Leftover veggies and protein (to your taste)


Set a pot of water on the stove to boil the pasta.

Combine the basil leaves, garlic, pignoli nuts, and cheese in a food processor.  Pulse the processor until the ingredients are well combined and have a fine, mealy texture.  Next, turn the food processor on low and slow stream in your olive oil.  Run the food processor until the pesto is well-combined.  I like a nice, even consistency in my pesto so I run it a little longer than necessary.  Put your pesto into a reusable container and set aside for later.

Throw your pasta into very salty water and follow the directions on the package (usually 8-10 minutes if using medium shells).

While your pasta cooks, check out the situation in your fridge.  Any leftover veggies you can use?  I’ve also made this dish with porcini and shitake mushrooms and it was awesome!  Broccoli would be good in this dish.  Or cauliflower.  Really, anything goes!  Check out your protein situation too!  I really liked the grilled chicken that I used for this dish.  It was previously grilled with a dry-rub that added a layer of flavor.  Shrimp would also be amazing in this if you have some in your freezer.  Figure out what you are using and if it needs to be heated.  The goal is to have all of the components of your dish ready at the same time!

Reserve approximately 1 cup of the pasta liquid prior to draining the pasta.  This is in case you want to add it back to the sauce to thin it later.  Drain the pasta and put it back into the pot, keeping your stove on low to maintain the temperature.  Add a cup-ish of the greek yogurt and combine with the pasta.  Drizzle in your pesto.  This part is really up to you.  How much do u like and want to use?  What looks appealing?  Add it slowly and see what you think.  Also, if the sauce needs to be thinned, add your reserved pasta water a little at a time to achieve the consistency that you want.

Plate it up!  Top with your protein & veggies and you’re ready to serve!  We added some extra pecorino on top because that’s what we do around here!  Mangia 🙂



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