We’ve been working on clearing out our freezer for a while and, aside from a few trips for produce and other staples like milk, we haven’t been grocery shopping in weeks. The good news is we’re saving money and I’m seeing parts of my freezer I haven’t seen in months. The bad news is that we’re running low on options and dinner tonight was a challenge.

Luckily, we have plenty of pasta and my basil plant is thriving so I turned to this lightened up pesto in The Best Light Recipe. The authors set out to reduce the calories and fat in traditional pesto, mainly by drastically reducing the amount of olive oil and eliminating the nuts. Ricotta cheese is instead added to give the pesto a creamy texture. The end result is a surprisingly flavorful sauce with about a third of the calories of a traditional pesto and less than 1/4 of the fat. My only complaint about the pesto is that I found it fairly salty, so I’d adjust my seasonings accordingly next time.

This recipe produces about 1 cup of pesto, which is enough for one pound of pasta. You will want to reserve some of the pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce a bit before serving.

Creamy Basil Pesto
from The Best Light Recipe by Editors of Cook’s Illustrated magazine

4 medium garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 cups fresh basil, stems and buds discarded
1 oz Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt and ground black pepper

Toast the garlic in a small skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until the color of the cloves deepens slightly, about 7 minutes. Transfer garlic to a plate to cool and then peel the cloves and chop coarsely.

Place the basil in a heavy-duty gallon-sized resealable bag. Pound the bag with the flat side of a meat mallet or a rolling pin until all the leaves are lightly bruised. (Bruising the leaves apparently helps to release their oils and intensify their flavor.)

Process the garlic, basil, Parmesan, ricotta, shallot, oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.

The pesto can be covered with plastic wrap pressed flush against its surface and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Yields 1 cup