Roasted Tomato and Walnut Pesto

Wow!  Life has been in full swing lately.  Things are happening so fast in our lives that my head is spinning.  We’ve been having a blast, and feel so blessed for the direction things are headed.  This fall, I have been asked by several different organizations to share my story, and to explain why I believe eating the way I do is so important.  Public speaking makes me very nervous, but I don’t feel that I can pass up these opportunities.  If I can help just one family improve their health, it will be worth it. I am also excited to be reaching a larger audience than ever after being given the opportunity to share some of my recipes on healthychild.org, DrGreene.com, and a few other sites!  To top that off, I’m busy teaching two small girls how to be kind, caring little people, trying to figure out how I’m going to convince their future school district to serve real food, and I plan on debuting my first cookbook in spring 2011.  So, if you’ve been wondering if I was turning my back on Healthnut Foodie, absolutely not.  I’ve been cooking up lots of great goodies, I’ve just been having trouble finding the time to write about them. The fact that Ellie has starting “walking” makes it harder to stay seated at the computer as well.  Corners and edges and bruises, oh my!  I’m still here, and am getting super pumped for the upcoming months! 

Now, about this pesto.  With tomato season at its peak, we are enjoying the bounties of our garden almost daily.  While I love fresh, raw ingredients, I was recently hit with a craving for comfort food.  To be specific, I wanted a big plate of spaghetti. It seemed silly to open up a jar of tomato sauce when I had my own abundance of fresh tomatoes growing just 20 yards away.  I didn’t want to spend all day simmering a sauce, so I decided to try a roasted tomato pesto.  It turned out so delicious that I woke up before the girls to share it with you.  This sauce is also easy peasy, economical, company worthy, and it is made with normal ingredients that everybody knows and loves.  My roasted tomato pesto is also much lower in fat and calories than the traditional version.  By roasting the tomatoes in a baking dish, you are able to retain all of the liquid that bakes out of them.  This virtually calorie free “sauce” is then used as a replacement for almost all of the olive oil in basil pesto (and it tastes just as good, maybe better!). 

Are you wondering why I chose to use walnuts in place of the traditional pine nuts?  Me too. I think it was because when I refilled my pine nut stash (to make traditional basil pesto with my homegrown and phenomenal basil), I was appalled that they were charging $24.99/lb in the bulk bins. I seriously googled it right then and there.  Apparently, pine nuts are becoming more popular, and there is this whole supply and demand issue.  Whatever.  Anyways, I couldn’t justify taking fresh ingredients from my garden, and then spending a fortune on a little nut.  That just seemed nuts! (Sorry.)  I had seen a recipe for a tomato tart with walnuts in the crust a while back, and thought that they could make a good substitution.  It worked.  Really well!  Walnuts are also packed full of heart healthy omega 3’s, manganese (which can help improve the symptoms of eczema), and can help boost your cognitive skills (make you smart!).

This pesto tasted amazing tossed with fresh linguine, and then garnished with kalamata olive, fresh tomato, and basil.  It also is a great dip for fresh bread or crostini.  Your family will enjoy a comforting end of summer dinner, and you will be providing them with the nutrients and energy they need to get back into the swing of school.  My roasted tomato and walnut pesto provides healthy fats, bone building calcium, immunity boosting garlic, and anti-bacterial basil.  It can help reduce inflammation throughout the body, and is the perfect dinner for a busy night! 

Ingredients:

Tomatoes, about 1 1/2 cups, any variety, go for whatever is plump and ripe (or on sale!)
Garlic, 6 cloves
Fresh basil leaves, about 1/2 cup, fairly tightly packed
Walnuts, 1/3 cup, I used roasted
Parmigiano-reggiano, 1/3 cup
Extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp
Sea salt, 1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp
Fresh ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp

Instructions (Hands on time, 10 min. Total time, 30 min.)

Preheat oven to 375 for about 10 minutes.

While oven heats, coarsely chop about 1 1/2 cups tomatoes, trying to keep as much of the juice as possible.  Place tomatoes in an 8 x 8 inch glass baking dish.  Peel and smash 6 cloves of garlic (use the flat side of a chef’s knife).  Add garlic to tomatoes.  Using clean hands, toss tomatoes and garlic with 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, and 1/2 tsp each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Transfer dish to oven, and bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.  (If serving immediately with pasta, start heating your water when tomatoes have baked for 10 minutes.)

Remove dish from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes. 

While tomatoes cool, place all remaining ingredients in a mini food processor (I would assume a blender would also work).  Be sure to include the remaining 1/2 tsp each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.
Pour tomatoes, garlic, and all juices into food processor.  Blend for 2 – 3 minutes, until pesto has reached a nice, creamy consistency (see note below).  Adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to three days.  This pesto can be served warm, cold, or at room temperature.

Notes:  Because tomatoes vary in water content, your pesto may be too runny or thick for your preference.  To thin pesto, add an additional tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.  To thicken pesto, add an additional tablespoon of walnuts.  My girls loved this!  I fed it to Ellie with a spoon, and got excited about the fact that I had come up with a way to include walnuts in baby food! This dish is naturally vegetarian and gluten free.  To those with nut allergies, you may omit the walnuts and double the amount of cheese.  Parmesan is salty, so you would want to also omit the second 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.

Does this sound delicious?  You may also enjoy…

Fava Bean, Almond, and Mint Pesto
Caprese Pasta
Black Bean and Corn Enchilada Pie
A Wake-Up Story

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Comments

  1. This sounds AMAZING!! I too sustitute pine nuts when I make pesto, I use my crispy pecans from NT. Looking forward to making this!

  2. Katie…can you freeze this? It looks amazing and I want to try and if possible make a ton for the winter months when tomatoes aren't cheap/readily available…i wonder if freezing then defrosting in fridge and then heating up would work – i know there are no preservatives…?

  3. Shannon– what are pecans from “NT”. Anyways, I am sure that you will love it! I've been getting great responses on this. Sorry, this week got crazy. I will email you back soon. We would love to do Deanna Rose next week before all of the fall activities get under way!

  4. Kate– First of all…GREAT IDEA!!! Secondly, I haven't been ignoring you, just thinking. I've decided that the pesto should freeze just fine. I would freeze it in ice cube trays (like baby food!) and then just defrost the amount you need in the refrigerator overnight. I would love to give you a for sure…but I like to freeze my “trials” for at least a week or two before testing. By then, tomato season will be almost over. I will say that I am confident enough in my decision that I am going to try it myself…hope that helps, and please let me know your results. (There is nothing in their that I haven't previously frozen…it has to work!)

  5. Katie – this stuff rocked! My son who will eat anything (thank goodness) was eating the basil and (i through in some parsley) before i dumped it in the chopper! And my husband who is the pickiest of eaters actually said “hey if you think that will last in the fridge we can have it again on Thursday…boil some more noodles!”… girl you rock – keep those recipes a' comin'! I'll let you know about the freezing – will probably do it over the weekend 🙂

  6. THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!! I am so glad you loved it. What a great compliment! Thanks for testing the freezer version for me! I think my tomato plants are slowing down for the season. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted!

  7. This pesto was amazing! My husband and I both loved it. I was thinking about making more and freezing it too. I did some research online. It says you can freeze basil pesto, but omit the cheese. Then when you thaw, add the cheese in at that point. I guess the cheese doesn't freeze well. Thanks for the great recipe. I can't wait to try more.

  8. Danielle– I'm so glad you loved this! The cheese comment intrigues me. Will you please let me know how this turns out?!?

  9. Danielle! You ding dong! Congratulations!!!! I didn't realize this was you! I am so excited for you! Let me know how I can help you. Maybe baby #2 can be an Ellie Bytes taste taster. You look amazing, who would have guessed?!? (This is why I should check out profiles before responding to comments.)

  10. I made a twist of this, buy your recipe was the base. Check it out if you like! You may have already tried this pasta??

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