Recipe: Heart-friendly basil and kale pesto

Traditionally, pesto is made with a mortar and pestle; apparently the basil and garlic release more flavour which then is better able to infuse through the olive oil. The Italians tend to know best with these things and I can definitely see the merit in engaging in the process, not only for the enhanced flavour but also to connect with the food and really tap into that first phase of digestion by enjoying the smells and the creative, physical process. Refresh your memory here about the importance of eating mindfully.

If, however, you’ve got your food processor handy, I promise I won’t tell anyone that you took the shortcut (I certainly plan to).

Now, let’s tick the Healthy Heart boxes, shall we?

  • Garlic: A 'super food' in the truest sense of the phrase. A powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant food, shown to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol in scientific research (read more here).

  • Sunflower seeds and kale: Both rich in magnesium, an essential mineral to assist with the relaxation of smooth muscle cells which may help to lower blood pressure; as well as being important for maintaining a healthy heart rhythm.

  • Walnuts: Contain essential omega-3 fatty acids. These types of fats must be obtained through the diet and have been found to reduce inflammation and also may contribute to lowering blood pressure.


2 cloves of garlic, peeled

2 tbs sunflower seeds

2 tbs walnuts

1 large bunch of basil, leaves picked

1 cup of torn kale leaves, lightly packed (curly kale gives a better result as it doesn’t tend to taste as bitter as Tuscan kale)

50g parmesan (if you're vegan or choose to eat dairy free, you can substitute 2 tbs of nutritional yeast, or just leave it out)

3 tbs extra virgin olive oil

A pinch each of salt and pepper to season (be sensible with the salt – this is a healthy heart recipe!)


Pop the garlic, nuts, and a pinch of salt and pepper into your food processor and wiz until combined.

Place the basil, kale, and parmesan (if using) into the bowl of the food processor, and process until all combined and finely chopped.

Transfer the mixture into a clean bowl and stir through the olive oil.

Note: this recipe is a little bit drier than traditional pesto. If you like it runnier, just add a dash more olive oil or even a little bit of water.

Uses for pesto

  • As a topping for baked veggies, grilled fish, meat, or tofu;

  • Tossed through a green salad instead of dressing;

  • As a dip for crackers and veggie sticks;

  • Combine with mashed avocado for a Mediterranean take on guacamole;

  • Of course, tossed through pasta.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days (or freeze!)

#cooking #cleaneats #pesto #vegetarian #recipe #cardiovascular

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