Pesto: The Best Recipe and Tips

This pesto recipe is from the Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten. This recipe calls for a mix of pine nuts and walnuts, which contain omega-3 fats and have been shown to improve Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

Healthy ingredients:

The main ingredients in pesto are basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese, each with their own health benefits:

  • Olive oil is rich in heart healthy monounsaturated fats that can reduce the risk for heart disease and diabetes.
  • Basil is rich in flavonoid phytochemicals called orientin and vicenin. These phytochemicals act like antioxidants, protecting healthy cells from cancer and diseases by neutralizing damaging free radicals.
  • Garlic has been shown to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Pine nuts are also a source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat that can improve cardiovascular health and help to manage type 2 diabetes.
  • Walnuts are a good source of monounsaturated and omega-3 fats which can improve cardiovascular health, insulin, and inflammation.

Easy ways to use pesto:

  • As a substitution for mayonnaise or mustard on sandwiches
  • On top of grilled fish or chicken
  • Mixed with pasta
  • Tossed with vegetables
  • As a marinade for fish or seafood
  • As a substitute for pizza sauce

Need more ideas? The Food Network lists 50 things to make with pesto.

Helpful tips when making and storing pesto:

  • Use high quality olive oil; it does make a difference.
  • Pine nuts are rich in oil and go rancid quickly. Store pine nuts tightly wrapped in plastic in the fridge for up to three months or in the freezer for up to nine.
  • Pulse, don’t puree. Overworking the basil in the food processor breaks down the chlorophyll which gives pesto its signature green color.
  • To store in the refrigerator, drizzle a thin layer of olive oil on the surface and place plastic wrap directly on the pesto in an airtight container.
  • Once pesto is made, put in ice cube trays and freeze. Transfer frozen pesto to zip lock bag and defrost in the refrigerator as needed.

Pesto (Makes 4 cups)


¼ cup walnuts

¼ cup pignolis (pine nuts)

3 tablespoons chopped garlic (9 cloves)

5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups good olive oil

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Place the walnuts, pignolis, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 30 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Serve, or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.

PCOS Nutrition Center

Tip of the Day

Sprinkle whole grain cereal on top of low-fat yogurt. It adds a delicious crunch!

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