Organic, Real Food on a Budget – Caprese Salad with Basil Pesto

Plants don’t really grow for me. I’m not a great gardener. I wish I was. Moving around every couple of years doesn’t help because once I finally figure out what grows in that specific region, we pick up and move. One thing I do grow, despite my black thumb, is herbs. I have a few pots and each year in early summer I plant basil, oregano, thyme, parsley, mint, and cilantro. Each little plant costs about $2 (the same price I’d pay in the store for a few sprigs) and I have herbs for about six months out of the year. If you use herbs often in your cooking, growing your own can save you quite a bit of money at the grocery store.

One of my favorite things to make with fresh herbs is pesto. Basil is the most popular, but I like to change it up with chard, kale, olives, broccoli, and sun-dried tomatoes. I like to get creative for summer picnics by bringing “salad in a jar.” Pair this light, flavorful salad with some fruit, cured meat, and something bubbly and you’ve got a recipe for an enjoyable time with nature, even if you can’t grow your own garden.

For some gardening help, check out this excellent post:

How to Grow Your Own Indoor Culinary Herb Garden by Gourmande in the Kitchen


For the Pesto:
    • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, washed and patted dry
    • 1/2 cup walnuts
    • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
    • 1 clove garlic
    • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For Salad:
  • 8 ounces penne pasta (whole wheat or rice pasta), cooked, drained and cooled
  • 16 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella, cubed
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Place the basil, walnut, cheese, garlic and sea salt in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. With processor on, slowly add olive oil. Adjust salt to taste.
  2. Divide pasta, tomatoes, mozzarella and olive oil into 4 bowls or jars. Divide pesto evenly among jars. Shake or toss salad before serving.

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