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Nancy's Pesto Recipe

Have you met pesto? It's a delicious topping for pasta that's a snap to create... and serve. Nancy makes enough of it, from our garden-fresh basil and garlic, for us to eat it every week, all year 'round.

Unlike most pesto recipes, which call for lots of olive oil, Nancy keeps the tantalizing taste, but she avoids excess calories and fats. (She feels her calorie and fat allotment are put to better use in her bedtime dish of ice milk.)

Nancy's Pesto, a True Taste Treat Delight

              20-25 cloves (5 heaping tablespoons) chopped garlic
              1/2 cup sunflower seeds
              2 tablespoons vegetable oil
              1 tablespoon honey (optional)
              1 cup water
              6 cups well-packed basil leaves (more or less)

Traditional recipes have you use a mortar to pound, or to "pestare" the ingredients (thus the name). It goes a lot faster with a food processor or blender.

Either way, combine the garlic and sunflower seeds with the oil and honey, and a little of the water. Gradually add the rest of the water. Then add the basil, 2 cups at a time. Process until everything is well blended.

Nancy's recipe makes about 4 cups of pesto, which we freeze in 1 pint containers. To enjoy, we pop a pint of pesto out of the freezer, heat it up slowly with about 1/2 cup of water, then toss it with about 12 cups of just-cooked pasta (1.5 pounds uncooked). We usually serve it hot the first night, then cold, or at room temperature, over the next couple of days. Just as we're about to dig in, we add a dash or two of pepper, and sprinkle some Romano cheese on top.

Ok, So We're Not Culinarily Correct

Nancy's recipe will no doubt incite some pesto purists to cry: "Why so little oil? What, no pine nuts?"

By skipping most of the oil, Nancy saves us about 75 calories, and almost 9 grams of fat -- in every serving -- even though our typical portion is a cup and a half, 50% heftier than what it says on the pasta box.

And we save money by stocking up on sunflower seeds (which are already cheap), when they're on sale at the health food store. No one ever misses those expensive pine nuts, and we save a bit more fat and calories in the bargain.

Note: Store-bought basil is extremely expensive (and hard to get in these here parts). If you're not harvesting it from your garden, plan to grow some next year.

You'll need a lot of plants to come up with 6 cups of basil. But it'll grow just about anywhere, even in window boxes ... which makes this gourmet dish affordable ... as well as yummy. And nothing beats fresh basil's fragrance.

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