Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Basil, spinach, zucchini, macadamia and feta pesto

Pesto is a funny thing.  Most people buy it in a jar these days, and yet at the same time it is seen as quite a 'gourmet' meal.
Maybe its the Thermomix that makes me wonder why you'd buy it in a jar, and why anyone would consider it 'gourmet'!
This dish is what I would call 'fast food'!  Perfect for those nights when you have 30 minutes to get dinner on the table.  And yet it is so so nutritious - bursting with vitamins and minerals, enhanced by minimal cooking.

What you will be serving up on a plate is essentially a whole heap of antioxidants, iron, fiber, and a vast array of other vitamins and minerals, thanks to the fresh baby spinach leaves, basil leaves, fresh garlic
 and zucchini, essentially served raw.

Yes there is certainly a fat content to consider, so if you are watching your kilojoule intake perhaps reduce your serving size and bulk it up with steamed vegies or salad (or use this as a sauce/dressing stirred through a large bowl of steamed veggies).  Having said that the majority of the fat content is nothing but really healthy fats - monounsaturated and polyunsaturated from the macadamias and olive oil.

So all in all this dish gets my tick for nutrition, simplicity and speed to table!  Why order a pizza I ask you?!

Obviously the Thermomix is largely behind the simplicity of this meal, taking me less than 5 minutes to prepare - longer than boiling a pot of water and cooking your pasta! That does not, however, mean that those without a Thermie can't get this dish happening.  A food processor, stick blender (with an enclosed container!) or even a good blender (maybe with a bit of help from you) will do the trick.

 I sauteed off some diced chicken breast to give a bit of substance to the meal for the big tummies of the family, but with the nuts and pasta, it would make a balanced meatless meal idea too!

As with most of my recipes, use this as a template and play around according to your familys tastes.  Replace the feta with ricotta for a more mild flavour.
Use more basil for a more fragrant dish.
Use sunflower seeds in place of the macadamias for people with nut allergies, or try cashews or the more traditional pine nuts if desired.
Use a mix of rocket leaves and spinach leaves for a stronger, peppery flavour.


Basil, spinach, zucchini, macadamia and feta pesto


40g parmesan cheese block, roughly cut if using TMX (I use Pecorino Romano - such a beautiful flavour!)
1 large garlic clove, peeled
160g macadamia nuts
2 big handfuls baby spinach leaves (washed and dried)
1 small handful fresh basil leaves
1 small zucchini (just head cut off)
120g feta cheese (I used Danish)
a few glugs of good quality olive oil (I just added enough to get a thick paste - use to your discretion)
1/2 lemon, juiced

Method - Thermomix

  1. Place parmesan and garlic in TM bowl and chop for 10-15 seconds on speed 8.
  2. Add nuts into the bowl and grind for 5 seconds on speed 7.
  3. Add leaves, zucchini and feta cheese and process on speed 6 until smooth, approx 10 seconds.
  4. Turn to speed 4 and add the olive oil in a slow stream, followed by the lemon juice to taste.

Method - Conventional

  1. Finely grate parmesan.  Set aside.
  2. Finely chop or crush garlic clove.  Add to parmesan.
  3. Place nuts in food processor and blitz until finely chopped.  Add to these the parmesan, garlic, leaves, zucchini and feta cheese and process until smooth, scraping down where necessary.
  4. While motor is still running, add oil in a slow stream until a thick paste is achieved, followed by lemon juice to taste.

  • If serving with pasta, once pasta is cooked to al dente, drain but save some of the cooking water.  Add pasta back into pot and add pesto.  Stir through, adding enough cooking water to help incorporate the pesto through the pasta.  Serve with cracked pepper and/or chilli flakes according to taste.

Can anyone spot the 'Bob the Builder' pasta scattered through this dish??!!!  Bribery??  Noooooo. My two year old loved it!!


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  3. Are macadamia's better for you than pine nuts? Brooke

    1. Hi Brooke,
      Overall both are packed with nutrients. The only real differences are the type of fats (Macadamias contain predominately monounsaturated fat and pinenuts contain almost equal levels of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats) but both of these are considered 'healthy' fats.

      Macadamias are also high in potassium, an essential mineral that has been linked with health benefits such as relief from stroke, blood pressure, anxiety and stress, water balance, electrolytic function, metabolism and the nervous system.

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