We’ve evolved a bit this year. Now that our dinners are centered around a gluten-free and dairy-free main dish, we’ve started changing up some of our favorite recipes so they’ll work for our family. This arugula, basil and avocado pesto is one of the happy outcomes of months of recipe testing and tweaking.
Arugula was added to the mix after we had a glut of gorgeous green leaves in our garden, but you could use spinach or kale instead. Avocado came in when we wanted to add a creamy component to make up for the loss of cheese. Basil packs in a flavorful, sweet and aromatic touch. And, well, makes it taste like pesto.
True Genovese pesto is much thinner than this, with olive oil that separates the bits of basil leaves and tons of garlic. With that in mind, it’s important to pulse the ingredients so they don’t get mashed to oblivion. The goal is to have bits of basil and arugula that shine through. And “pulse” means to gently and quickly turn the food processor on and off, not keep it continually running. Otherwise it just turns into an herb and avocado dip for crudité, which is also totally ok.
Last summer, my kids flat out fell in love with pesto. They would made it on their own from basil we bought at the farmer’s market. They’d toss it with pasta. Slather it on sourdough grilled cheeses. Put it on heirloom tomatoes with burrata. It was one of the first “green” foods that hit a trifecta with my three, and I sure hope it sticks around.
Arugula, Basil and Avocado Pesto
To use leftover greens, feel free to replace the arugula with spinach or kale. This is best used immediately after it’s made, or store in an air tight container with plastic wrap touching the top layer of the pesto to help prevent oxidation.
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed, without the stems
- 1 cup arugula or kale
- 1 avocado, peeled and pitted
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (optional, leave out to make Whole30 or vegan)
- Place the pine nuts, garlic, basil, arugula, avocado, lemon juice, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse on and off until minced.
- With the processor running, pour the olive oil in the feed tube and pulse. Add the Parmesan and pulse quickly a couple more times.
- Taste for salt and adjust season if necessary. If you’d like a thinner consistency, add 2-3 tablespoons of water or olive oil and pulse to combine.