Elysian Eats: Spinach & Basil Pesto

Written by Lyssandra Guerra Photography by Melanie Riccardi

Pesto is a common staple in my pantry and to many of my dishes. The sauce is versatile and adds brightness to everything from fish and eggs, to pasta and roasted vegetables (or, frankly, anything you want to add freshness to). The best part about pesto is that it can be made with any combination of seasonal greens and raw nuts or seeds that you may already have in your pantry.

Traditionally, the pesto that originates from Genoa in Italy is made with a combination of basil, lemon juice, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and garlic. While this is certainly delicious, I like to take my version to the next level for sustained energy. By adding more potent ingredients that provide protein, healthy fats, and fiber, not only does it pack a punch of flavor, but it also leaves you feeling satiated and nourished. To break it down, I’ve outlined the health benefits of each ingredient included in today’s recipe below. With summer just around the corner, this is a great staple to have on-hand to incorporate into your seasonal dishes.



Basil calms the nervous system, which helps to soothe challenged digestion.


Spinach is high in fiber and rich in iron, making it a wonderful leafy green to regulate bowels and bring oxygen to your cells for optimal energy.


Walnuts are chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids, helping the brain to stay sharp and clear.


Hemp seeds and nutritional yeast are both complete proteins that increase energy levels, are high in essential fatty acids, and are great post-workout foods because they improve muscle recovery. Nutritional yeast has the extra bonus of being rich in B vitamins — say goodbye to depression, insomnia, nervousness, and fatigue.


Lemons have immune boosting properties that are also ideal for digestive and liver cleansing.


Garlic is extremely effective in boosting immunity.


Sea vegetables are abundant in nutrition. There is ampleness of protein from algae and spirulina that naturally boost energy levels while also providing your body with trace minerals, and vitamins that boost immunity. This is a great food for raw foodist, vegans, and vegetarians.


Basil & Hemp Seed Pesto


2 cups fresh basil
2 cups organic spinach
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup raw walnuts
2 tbs. hemp seeds
2 tbsp. olive oil (can add more for consistency)
1 tbsp. nutritional yeast
2-3 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. Himalayan sea salt
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp. sea vegetable powder (optional)


Using a high-speed blender or immersion blender, combine all ingredients until desired texture.

Tip: I like to use the immersion blender to keep my pesto on the chunkier side, and prefer to add the hemp seeds into the mixing bowl last so they don’t shoot out when the immersion blender turns on. For a smoother and creamier pesto, try using a high-speed blender or Vitamix.


Lyssandra Guerra is a certified Holistic Nutritionist based out of Oakland, California. Using a thoughtful path of whole foods, herbs, and daily rituals, she guides her clients in healing from the inside out. Her aim is to inspire others to eat smart, simple, and nutritious foods so that they can reclaim their health, vitality and glow.

Melanie Riccardi is a product and commercial photographer in San Francisco. Her desire for simplicity has influenced her minimalistic style.

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