This Pesto Couscous Salad is a favourite recipe. If truth be told, it didn’t start out as a salad; I made it one day as a quick, warm, all in one lunch with stuff I had in the fridge. It turned out to be such a big hit that it now makes a regular appearance for lunch (packed or otherwise), for picnics and most certainly, when we entertain. In terms of identity, it morphed itself into a salad because it cools down pretty quickly! And when we do need to make a packed lunch, this is always the Plat du Jour, because my kids are strange and don’t like sandwiches!! Unless they’re honey ones!
There are so many things that make this Pesto Couscous salad special. Firstly, the use of pesto, to flavour the plain old couscous. The we add depth, texture, colour and more flavour. You can be as adventurous or as conservative as your taste dictates, when it comes to the “filling” for this salad. Here, our Pesto Couscous Salad contains:
Peas – always good, sweet, not only a brilliant splash of green but full of nutrients: vitamin K, manganese, vitamin C, folic acid, etc.
Tomatoes – I love summertime for the many varieties of tomatoes available. We always grow a few different types, so take your pick of what you can get and they will lend a touch of sweet and a hint of piquancy to the salad. We all know tomatoes are good for us, raw or cooked, and they don’t have to be a deep red to be a great source of lycopene.
Capsicum (Bell peppers) – another sweet, crunchy addition to the salad, colour is up to you. Amazing vitamin C content!
Olives – as this is a Moroccan/Mediterranean fusion dish, olives are an obvious addition, providing and earthy and savoury depth. Colour is up to you.
Cheese – I love adding either parmesan or pecorino to enhance the pesto. Even mozzarella as everyone loves mozzarella! Feta is of course the choice for many with salads but I personally think it is sooo overdone and overused in recipes! Halloumi or Paneer are great too.
Nuts – pine nuts go very well in this recipe as pesto sauce is made with pine nuts, so there’s a natural affinity. Flaked almonds are also good. The nuts and cheese add to the protein content of the salad.
I have a thing about pesto, and love experimenting with it in my kitchen, resulting not only in today’s recipe but so many others, these are just 4 examples from this site:
This recipe is finally getting posted because of an initiative by a blogger friend of mine, Sonal Gupta, who blogs over at SimplyVegetarian777. She’s putting together a list of healthy vegetarian lunchbox recipes and I thought why not? We do pack the odd lunchbox despite homeschooling, you know!
Pesto is very strongly flavoured, a little goes a long way, so go easy, if in doubt, you can always add more. Homemade is good, we always have some homemade pesto in the fridge, and that has long been the responsibility of my 12 year old as she really, really loves it! Click here for our recipe which keeps, so you won’t be making it in the morning on a school day! If you’re going the shop bought route, hey, who am I to judge! But did I mention it only takes 8 minutes? Uh huh.
Turning the Pesto Couscous Salad into an “Adult Version”
Now, the salad as it is, is perfectly fine for an adult, but with a few changes, it can get so much more exciting! My kids are definitely bigger fans of the adult version, so if your child has adventurous tastes, he or she is going to love this one too. So here’s how to change it up:
Use marinated olives, cheese, roasted tomatoes and grilled peppers instead of fresh ones. I always have these homemade in the fridge and you can click on the links above to find out how to make them all a few days before. They last a while in the fridge if you can stop yourself from gobbling them all up! Which means you can use them again later in the week in sandwiches or this same salad again!
If you don’t fancy making them, they should be found easily at Italian delis or at supermarkets in either the fresh deli section or the Italian aisle, labelled “antipasti”. If you’re going for antipasti, artichokes will go amazingly well in this salad too.
Ready to make the salad?