Basil Pesto Pasta for One (Nut-Free)

We have been having unseasonably hot and humid weather in our part of the world. Considering the heat, I haven’t wanted to cook or bake heavy dishes. This easy-to-make pesto pasta has been a meal that I’ve been eating frequently. It is relatively light, can be ready in a few minutes, and the pasta is the only thing you need to cook!

I have a few basil plants in my kitchen (thanks to my mom!), and they are full of leaves. The abundance of basil, along with the heat, inspired this dish. This recipe is specifically adapted to serve one person. I am more of a pasta fan than my husband, so I make this for myself when we are eating separate meals. However, you can easily multiply the quantities to serve multiple people.

I chose to make it nut-free because my mother doesn’t care for nuts, and there are some nut-based allergies in our family. I don’t miss the pine nuts, but the pesto itself is a bit thinner than traditional pesto. I have also added lemon juice to this recipe. You may choose to omit the lemon juice if you would like the pesto a bit thicker.

A few notes on the recipe:

Fresh Garlic: The garlic in this recipe is raw (not cooked), and raw garlic can have a bit of a bite to it. If you do not like the taste of raw garlic, you can roast it in the oven, prior to making the pasta dish (click here for a roasting guide). You can also substitute the minced garlic with a 1/8 teaspoon of dried garlic powder.

Parmesan Cheese: Shredded Parmesan cheese is blended into the pesto mixture. You can use Pecorino Romano instead of Parmesan cheese, but it is saltier. Keep this in mind when you are adding salt to the pesto mixture.

Fresh Mozzarella: I add fresh mozzarella to the pasta dish. You an either add an ounce of the mozzarella “pearls” or cube fresh mozzarella. If you do not have fresh mozzarella, you can add a couple tablespoons of shredded mozzarella cheese.

Tomatoes: This recipe benefits from the addition of cherry or grape tomatoes. If you would like to add tomatoes to the recipe, simply halve the tomatoes prior to making the dish. If you do not have cherry tomatoes, you can add half of a diced Roma tomato. If you choose to add a Roma tomato, remove the seeds before dicing it.

Cost Analysis:

Please note – the cost is based on what I paid for ingredients in the year 2020. Your actual costs may differ.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

  • Difficulty: easy
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An easy homemade pesto pasta recipe that is nut-free and results in one serving.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup (packed) fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 4 ounces pasta (I used fettuccine, but any shape will do)
  • pinch of salt, to taste
  • 1 ounce of fresh mozzarella cheese
  • suggested add-in: 1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes (cut in half)

Directions

  1. Boil salted water in a saucepan and prepare pasta noodles per box instructions.
  2. Combine basil, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and a pinch or two of salt in a small blender or food processor. Blend until well combined.
  3. Drain pasta and remove it from heat. Add pesto to the pasta noodles and mix until combined. Add fresh mozzarella and uncooked tomatoes (if using) to the pasta.
  4. Top dish with additional Parmesan cheese and basil.
  5. Enjoy!

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Watermelon Lemonade

There is no more quintessential summer food than watermelon, and there is no beverage more representative of summer than lemonade. This recipe is a fun way to combine both summer favorites into a refreshing and tasty drink.

We don’t keep many flavored beverages on hand in our home, because we are blessed with tap water that tastes wonderful. Quick, easy summer beverages like this one allow us to offer guests something other than tap water, without investing in a large selection of pre-made beverages that we probably won’t consume on our own.

Cost Analysis:

Please note – the cost is based on what I paid for ingredients in the year 2020. Your actual costs may differ.

Notes on the Recipe:

Lemon juice: A typical lemon has 2 tablespoons of juice. I don’t normally keep lemons on hand, so I use lemon juice concentrate. It is much less expensive and has a longer shelf life. However, you can use the juice from one lemon in this recipe. Alternatively, you could use lime juice to make an excellent watermelon limeade!

Watermelon: This recipe calls for chilled cubes of watermelon. I typically cut my watermelon into about 1.5″ cubes (click here for a tutorial), and place the bowl in the refrigerator. If your watermelon is not chilled, substitute ice cubes for some of the water.

Tartness: This lemonade is relatively tart. However, you can adjust the amount of lemon juice to your own personal taste. I have made this lemonade with three tablespoons of lemon juice which was a bit sour for me.

Fine mesh strainer: When you blend watermelon, it creates a slight pulp. If you want a smooth glass of lemonade, pour the beverage through a fine mesh strainer prior to consuming.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Watermelon Lemonade

  • Difficulty: Easy
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This fresh watermelon lemonade blends a pleasant tartness with the sweet summer flavor of watermelon. Delicious!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of ice cold water
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice concentrate (or from a fresh lemon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar, or to taste
  • 1 cup coarsely diced seedless watermelon (cold from the refrigerator)
  • Ice, optional

Directions

  1. Combine water, lemon juice, sugar, and watermelon in a small blender.
  2. Blend ingredients until the watermelon is well blended into the beverage.
  3. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a glass.
  4. Add a few ice cubes to the glass.
  5. Garnish with lemon if you are feeling festive, and enjoy!

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Basil Lemonade

I like fresh lemonade, and we are currently having hot, sunny weather. Unfortunately, we don’t have any lemons in the house. Thankfully, you can make lemonade from lemon juice concentrate that tastes deceptively like the real thing!

I made my lemonade with fresh basil leaves. You can omit the basil, or use a different fresh herb.

Also keep in mind that you can easily tweak this recipe to your liking. If you like really tart lemonade, cut the sugar or add more lemon juice concentrate.

Cost Analysis:

Note: The costs are based on what I paid for ingredients in 2020. Your actual costs may differ.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Basil Lemonade

  • Difficulty: Easy
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This fresh basil lemonade is easy to make and can be made with lemon juice concentrate.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of ice cold water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice concentrate (or fresh lemon juice)
  • 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar, or to taste
  • 2 basil leaves, optional
  • Ice, optional

Directions

  1. Combine water, lemon juice, sugar, and basil leaves in a small blender.
  2. Blend ingredients until you can no longer see the basil leaves. Note – the lemonade will be frothy from the blending process.
  3. Add a few ice cubes to a glass. Then, pour the lemonade into a glass. If you do not like the froth, pour carefully or strain. Or, refrigerate the mixture to allow the frothiness to decrease.
  4. Garnish with a basil leaf if you are feeling festive, and enjoy!

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Fast, Easy, & Delicious Pasta

My college cafeteria served made-to-order pasta. It was great. Perhaps it was a little too great, as I gained 10 pounds during my first year of college…

In the cafeteria, a cook would allow you to select your garlic, oil, sauce, vegetables, meat, and pasta noodle shape. As a frequenter of the pasta station, I sampled a variety of made-to-order dishes. Now, easy pasta dishes are my go-to lazy meal. You can use up the produce you have in your home, and make the pasta dish to your taste.

For me, a great lazy pasta dish only requires:

  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Some form of tomato (grape, diced, or even canned)
  • Pasta

Other add-ins I like include:

  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Fresh herbs
  • Other vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, asparagus, peppers, etc.

The olive oil and tomatoes form a light sauce. The addition of garlic, cheese and fresh herbs makes it a great light dish for summer. If you want something heavier, consider adding butter, additional cheese, and meat.

The pasta we had last night incorporated fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, fresh basil, and two types of cheese. The cost was $1.71 per person (see below for cost analysis).

Cost Analysis:

Note: The costs are based on what I paid for ingredients in 2020. Your total cost may differ.

Recipe:

Quick & Easy Pasta Dish

  • Difficulty: easy
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An easy and versatile pasta dish.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or minced
  • 1 1/4 cups grape tomatoes (cut in half)
  • 4 ounces pasta (I used fettuccine, but any shape will do)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice (or balsamic vinegar)
  • Additional add-ins: mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, fresh basil or other herbs, other vegetables!

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil on medium heat. Separately, boil water in a saucepan and prepare pasta noodles per box instructions.
  2. Add finely chopped onion and a pinch of salt to the olive oil and allow the onion to cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and 1 cup of grape tomatoes, and any additional vegetables. Allow mixture to cook for a few minutes in the oil. Add lemon juice.
  3. Allow this mixture to cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, until onion and tomato are softened.
  4. Mix pasta noodles into the tomato sauce.
  5. Top with 1/4 cup of uncooked tomatoes (if desired). I like this for the texture, but you could choose to cook all of the tomatoes.
  6. Top with cheese, fresh herbs, salt and pepper, if desired.
  7. Enjoy!

What are your go-to lazy meals?

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Pea & Parmesan Risotto

I had a dish similar to this one on a vacation about five years ago, and I absolutely loved it. The dish was delicious, so of course I attempted to recreate it! I have tried a number of variations (including topping with fresh pea sprouts, omitting the additional peas, and experimenting with dried basil), but the recipe I am including in this post is the one I make the most often.

Concerning modifications, I don’t think the pea sprouts are worth the extra cost, but are a lovely topping if you are serving to dinner guests. I also prefer the dish with fresh basil, but have made it a number of times with dried basil. I use frozen peas, but it is good (if not better) with fresh peas. The great thing about cooking is that there really isn’t a right or wrong way to do it. So, use what you have and enjoy!

Side note: I love bread. I almost always serve rosemary focaccia bread (click here for recipe) with this risotto. I think it is a stellar combination!

From a cost perspective, the dish cost us about $1.50 per serving to make. An obvious way to make the dish cheaper is to either make your own vegetable stock or use a stock cube. I usually pay for pre-made broth, which makes the dish a lot more expensive than it needs to be.

Frugal Cost Analysis:

Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Pea and Parmesan Risotto for $1.50 per serving

  • Difficulty: Easy
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This easy and delicious risotto combines frozen peas, fresh basil, and Parmesan cheese, which results in a delicious vegetarian meal.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 32 ounces vegetable broth + hot water, if needed
  • 10 ounces frozen peas (you don’t need exactly 10 ounces. Less is fine. If you love peas, more is fine!)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 4 fresh basil leaves
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Heat vegetable broth in a small saucepan and simmer over low heat.
  2. Heat frozen peas following bag instructions. Note: Steam in the bag frozen vegetables are more expensive, but quite convenient for this recipe.
  3. Add butter to a large saucepan and and heat using medium-low heat. After it is heated, add diced onion. Cook for approximately 10 minutes, or until onion is softened. Stir the onions occasionally, and do not allow them to burn.
  4. Increase heat to medium and add arborio rice. Cook for another 2 minutes.
  5. While the rice is cooking, add 1/2 cup of vegetable broth and 1/2 cup of peas to a blender. Also add 4 fresh basil leaves (or a pinch of dried basil). Blend until smooth. Set aside for use later.
  6. Reduce heat of the large saucepan to medium-low. Add a ladleful of broth to the rice. Stir (you will need to stir frequently throughout the entire broth process). Once the broth is absorbed, add another ladleful of broth. Continue this process until the rice is tender. (I generally taste the rice to confirm it isn’t still crunchy). This process will likely take 20-25 minutes. If you use up all of the broth, continue with hot water.
  7. Remove from heat. Add pea puree and stir. Add shredded Parmesan cheese and stir. Add remaining peas and stir. Allow to set for about 3-5 minutes.
  8. Top with additional Parmesan cheese, pepper, and salt (if desired). Enjoy!

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Easy Summer Caprese Appetizer

It is a gorgeous summer day, and James and I wanted something light for lunch. We had some leftover crusty artisan bread (click here for recipe) and decided to make a lunch out of one of our favorite appetizers: easy summer caprese!

We had some fresh mozzarella, a few tomatoes that had seen better days, our trusty basil plant, and the leftover homemade bread. On a colder day, I would make make a toasty caprese sandwich (click here for recipe), but some days are just too warm for a grilled cheese!

A few notes: If you don’t have fresh mozzarella, you can use part of a block of mozzarella cheese (or even mozzarella cheese sticks). If you don’t have fresh basil, a pinch of dried basil will still be tasty! If you don’t have or want bread, this is delicious as a salad.

If you serve this as an appetizer, it will cost you approximately $0.60 per person (assuming you 4 servings). If you eat as a light meal, only plan on 2 servings. See the cost analysis below:

Cost Analysis:

Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Easy Summer Caprese Appetizer

  • Difficulty: Easy
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An quick and easy appetizer perfect for a warm summer day.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 loaf of bread (see artisan bread recipe)
  • 3 ounces of mozzarella cheese (fresh mozzarella if you have it)
  • 4 basil leaves, sliced (I keep a basil plant for economical fresh herbs)
  • 2 small tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil + more for bread if desired
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Combine chopped tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil in a bowl.
  2. Add olive oil and balsamic vinegar to bowl.
  3. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
  4. Mix ingredients.
  5. Serve with slices of bread (cut into half or quarters) or as a salad. If you would like, you can toast the bread and serve this as bruschetta! Advise your guests to put the mixture on top of the bread for optimal deliciousness!

-Kristin

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