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
- 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.
What can I substitute for pine nuts in pesto? Vivian has an allergy to them. I’ve heard of using walnuts, but she’s allergic to them as well. Any nut free suggestions?
When Avery wasn’t eating nuts for a couple months, we just left them out. The pesto was still delicious!
I cannot wait to try this recipe! My daughter LOVES pesto. Can you please share what recipe your children used when they made it? I would love for her and my son to be able to whip it up like your children did (and love it!)
Sarah — if you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I’ll email it to you!