Pesto Power

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

Picture of simple pesto made from recipe shown below
Picture of simple pesto made from recipe shown below

There is nothing quite like the aroma of fresh basil and what better way to use this fragrant herb than in a batch of pesto. Sure you could pick up store bought pesto (which can be quite good), but nothing beats the real thing!

Pesto, a delicious sauce made of fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and extra virgin olive oil originated long ago in Northern Italy and remains quite popular today. When this flavorful blend is sitting in the fridge, the possibilities are endless.

Ways for Using Pesto:

Steam whole carrots until fork tender. Drain well and pat dry. Gently coat with pesto.

Try pesto on sandwiches as a delicious variation from mustard or mayo.

Toss whole grain pasta (or zucchini “noodles”) with pesto. HINT: Best while food is HOT.

Brush salmon (or other fish) with a generous spread of pesto when it comes out of the oven or off the grill.

Stir pesto into a bowl of mashed cauliflower.

When roasting vegetables in the oven, toss them with pesto.

Spread pesto onto thin slices of crusty French bread to serve with meals.

A dollop of pesto is a delicious addition to burgers.

Pesto tastes amazing on thick slices of fresh ripe tomatoes.

Try making pesto. It is SO good you will be inspired with lots of additional ideas for using it!!

Simple Pesto

Instead of expensive pine nuts, this recipe uses roasted sunflower seeds.


  • 5 cloves of garlic (minced)

  • ¼ cup roasted sunflower seeds*

  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 ½ cups of lightly packed fresh basil leaves, washed and dried

  • ¾ cup olive oil

  • Juice of one lemon (optional)

*To roast sunflower seeds, simply spread them out in a single layer onto a small baking sheet. Place baking sheet into a pre-heated 400- degree oven for 5 minutes or less. Stir mid-way. Watch closely and do not allow to burn! Allow to cool before using.


  1. Place garlic, sunflower seeds, cheese, salt, basil (and lemon juice if using) into blender.

  2. Pulse just until chopped coarsely (stop blender and use a rubber scraper if needed).

  3. Gradually add olive oil (stopping blender for each addition).

  4. Continue processing until pesto is smooth.

Follow Along

Follow along with Rachel, BCF Program Coordinator as she makes this recipe on Facebook Live!

Written by Jenny Favret, MS, RD, LDN

Dietitian, Duke Pediatrics Healthy Lifestyles Program

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