Kitchen MacGyver: 3 Flavorful Non-Traditional Power Pestos

Use this heart-healthy spread to fuel your training.

Written by: Sabrina Grotewold

As basil season wraps up but fall marathon season kicks into high gear, pasta-twirling runners seeking tomato-less toppings for their pasta, sandwiches or toasted baguettes can rely on pesto to deliver a calorically dense, antioxidant rich dose of heart healthy fats to fuel their training. While delicious, I find traditionally made pesto a little too rich for everyday eating—not to mention the fact that it tends to sit heavy in the gut on the next morning’s run—so I split the difference and use a blend of half stock and half oil in my pestos. Some Italian purists may argue that this method doesn’t produce real pesto, but I’m not interested in arm wrestling any Italian grandmas here. This method works for me and my training; pair these lighter power pestos with whole wheat pasta and breads, as a condiment for sandwiches and soups, or as a starter for salad dressings.

Broccoli Rabe and Walnut Pesto    

1 bunch broccoli rabe, stems trimmed at the bottom (about one inch)

2 garlic cloves

1/4 cup toasted walnuts

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup vegetable stock

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, blanch the broccoli rabe for four to five minutes, or until softened. Transfer broccoli rabe to a bowl of ice water to stop it from cooking.

Combine the stock, oil, broccoli rabe, garlic, walnuts, salt, pepper in a blender and pulse until coarsely chopped. If mixture appears too thick, add a bit more oil or stock and whizz for 10 seconds. Stir in cheese and serve.

Artichoke and Olive Pesto

6 fully cooked artichoke hearts, or 1 jar artichokes (preferably in water or vinegar), drained

2 garlic cloves

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup pitted green or black olives

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup parmagiano-regiano cheese

Combine the stock, oil, artichokes, sunflower seeds, garlic, olives, salt and pepper in a blender and pulse until coarsely chopped. If mixture appears too thick, add a bit more oil or stock and whizz for 10 seconds. Stir in cheese and serve.

Smoky Swiss Chard Pesto

1 bunch swiss chard, stems trimmed at bottom (about one inch) and chopped

2 garlic cloves

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup vegetable stock

1/4 cup smoked almonds

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup grated romano cheese

1/4 cup grated asiago cheese

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, blanch the swiss chard for four to five minutes, or until softened. Transfer swiss chard to a bowl of ice water to stop it from cooking, then drain.

Combine the stock, oil, swiss chard, garlic, almonds, salt, pepper in a blender and pulse until coarsely chopped. If mixture appears too thick, add a bit more oil or stock and whizz for 10 seconds. Stir in cheese and serve.

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