Although Italian basil pesto is traditionally pounded in a mortar and pestle, a new wave of pesto-like sauces made from parsley, cilantro, mint, arugula and even olives or red peppers can easily be whirled up with the pulse of a food processor.
For the cook who values convenience, jarred, roasted red peppers are a year-round staple at most supermarkets. Nutritionally speaking, red peppers are a rich source of vitamin C. Red peppers also contain large amounts of beta-carotene, an antioxidant pigment that may help prevent eye diseases, certain cancers and heart disease.
Meanwhile, a shortage of pine nuts in both the southwestern United States and China is pushing prices sky-high. Walnuts, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, make a tasty (and more affordable) substitute.
Many traditional pesto recipes use a ratio of 1/4 cup olive oil to 1 cup basil. With the addition of fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth, this red-pepper pesto requires less olive oil. Yes, olive oil is a healthy, monounsaturated fat, but it's important to keep in mind it still contains 120 calories per tablespoon.
Makes 6 servings.
1 cup drained, jarred, roasted red peppers
2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
1/4 cup fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted
1 (12-ounce) box multigrain or whole-wheat pasta, such as fusilli, fettuccine or other favorite shape
1/2 cup fresh basil, cut into thin strips
Place the peppers, garlic, chicken broth, 2 1/2 tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese, the olive oil and walnuts in work bowl of food processor. Process, stopping to scrape down sides, until mixture is smooth; set aside.
Cook the pasta according to package directions; drain. Toss pesto with hot pasta. Divide between 6 bowls and garnish with remaining Parmesan and the basil.
Per serving: 259 calories (20 percent from fat), 6 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 2 milligrams cholesterol, 45 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams protein, 49 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber.