Healthy Lifestyle Blog

June 22, 2010

Basil Pesto, Vegan Style

I love basil. I remember as a child there was always basilico (Italian for basil) growing in our backyard, and I loved picking leaves for my mother to use in tomato sauce. The smell of fresh basil reminds me of those days.

If you are growing basil and want to harvest from the same plant throughout the summer, keep pinching off the flowers so the plant doesn’t go to seed. Also, be sure to pick the leaves before they get too large – they are much more tender when they are smaller. At the local farm, basil is pulled root and all and bundled that way. When I take it home, I place it in a vase with water and place the vase of basil in the refrigerator. It keeps fresh for several days that way. Cut basil (without roots) may be stored in the refrigerator wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel.

Basil has many health benefits, and its most abundant nutrients are similar to many other leafy greens – very high in Vitamin K, and moderately high in iron, calcium, vitamin A, manganese, magnesium, vitamin C and potassium. There is also a wide array of additional nutrients that are not often cited, and are seldom (if ever) present in processed foods even when “enriched.” It seems that no matter how much we strip nature’s bounty of its nutrients, we can’t seem to put them all back in. So why not eat the food straight from the source?

Research has shown unique health-protection properties of basil due to its flavonoids and volatile oils. The flavonoids in basil offer protection at the cellular level, protecting our cell structures and chromosomes from radiation and oxygen-based damage. Basil also has anti-bacterial properties due to its volatile oils. One component of basil’s volatile oils, eugenol, is being studied extensively because of its anti-inflammatory effects. Got arthritis? Eat basil!

To retain all the nutritional value in basil, it is best eaten raw. If you do add it to a cooked dish, then it is best to add at the very end so it will retain its maximum essence and flavor.

Here is a recipe for a vegan basil pesto that I adapted from a recipe I found in The Raw Revolution Diet, by Cherie Soria.

1/2 cup chopped zucchini
1 cup fresh basil leaves, firmly packed
1 Tbs. flax seed oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
1 1/2 teaspoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons light miso
1-2 cloves garlic
pinch of salt
1/4 cup walnuts

  1. Place the garlic in a food processor fitted with the S blade and process until finely ground, scraping down the sides.
  2. Add chopped zucchini and process until smooth.
  3. Add basil, oil, miso, nutritional yeast flakes, salt and pulse a few times to coarsely chop the basil.
  4. Add the walnuts and process until the desired consistency is achieved.

This pesto is delicious over spiralized zucchini pasta, as a filling for a rollup, in raw lasagna, or layered with fresh heirloom tomatoes over a bed of lettuce.


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Marilyn Chiarello, founder of A Taste of Light, is a certified raw vegan chef, educator and health coach. She offers a variety of services including health coaching, classes, dinner parties, consultations and presentations. For more information, visit or contact her directly – or 516-671-7037.

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Filed under: Nutrition,Raw Food,Recipes,Vegan — admin @ 12:35 pm

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