Cilantro Pesto Sauce

Cilantro Pesto


Basil does not have a lock on pesto. Pesto can be made with any number of herbs, nuts and green vegetables. In this case, cilantro and pepitas (pumpkin seeds) take the lead in this Cilantro Pesto Sauce.

While the flavor profile of this pesto is very different than basil pesto, it can be used in many of the same ways. Tossed with pasta, smeared on  sandwich wrap instead of mayo, mixed with tomato sauce to make pizza sauce are just a few ideas. A dollop or two in a basic vinaigrette would really make your salad dressing pop. A spoonful stirred into a bowl of soup would be sublime.

If you cannot find pepitas in your market, substitute with slivered almonds. Be sure to toast the almonds to release the oils and nutty flavor.


Cilantro Pesto Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4 cups
  • 6 bunches fresh cilantro, stems trimmed
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • juice of one lime
  1. Place the cilantro, garlic and pumpkin seeds into a large food processor, and process until smooth.
  2. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, stopping and scraping down the sides of the processor bowl if needed.
  3. Add the salt, red pepper and lime juice and mix to incorporate.
  4. Place the pesto into a storage container and press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pesto before closing tightly.


Cilantro Pesto

Mint Chutney

Mint Chutney

Indian food is always on the top of my list of food I love to eat. The complex laying of spices and herbs, a myriad of vegetable based dishes, meaning I will be sure to eat my veggies that day. But it can be an intimidating food to cook, even for a trained chef.

That fear of cooking Indian food has vanished upon receiving a copy of Flavorful Shortcuts to Indian/Pakistani Cooking by Farhana Sahibzada. Chef Farhana, who has been a culinary teacher for over twenty year, recently did a cooking demo at Melissa’s Produce. Her easy going style and patient explanations made Indian cooking not as intimidating as it was.

If you are like me and love Indian food, but afraid to try to make it at home, I recommend Chef Farhana’s book. Find it in your local bookstore or buy it here on Amazon.

I admit, this Mint Chutney recipe is probably one of the easiest ones in the book, but it is what I was craving. I had roasted a chicken and potatoes with Indian spices, and knew this chutney would be the perfect cooling complement to the heavily spiced meat.

Mint Chutney

Mint Chutney
Prep time
Total time
  • ½ bunch fresh cilantro
  • ½ bunch fresh mint
  • 1 whole Serrano chile, stem removed
  • 1 teaspoon pomegranate seeds
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  1. Bland all the ingredients in a blender or food processor for 30 - 40 seconds until blended well.
  2. Mint chutney can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks when stored in an airtight container with a firm lid.


I also recommend Crack the Code: Cook Any Indian Meal with Confidence by Nandita Godbole. This is another excellent book which helps demystify the complexity in Indian cooking.  You can purchase and download this Ebook from Amazon.


I may receive compensation in either monetary or product form for my recipe development. I take pride in working with products that fit my brand and will be beneficial to my readers.  All opinions are my own.

Slow Cooker Beef Cheek Ragu with Orecchiette

Slow Cooker Beef Cheek Ragu with Orecchiette

Beef cheek? What the heck is a beef cheek?

It is exactly what it sounds like. The cheek of a cow. When I think of cows, I tend to picture them chewing their cud in a grassy field. And the muscles the cow needs to chew are in the jaws and cheek. Those muscles work hard everyday, meaning they are tough and lean. That is a very good thing, because the tougher cuts of meat are also the most flavorful. But, if they are not cooked correctly, they become a not very good thing.  Tough cuts of meat need to be cooked low and slow. That means low temperature for a very long time.

Beef cheeks are not something you find in your everyday supermarket, unless you live near a good Hispanic or Asian market. Go to a butcher store, or ask the meat department in your supermarket if they can order them for you.  If beef cheeks are nowhere to be found, this recipe would work well with beef shanks or short ribs. You will have to adjust the cooking time.

Slow Cooker Beef Cheek Ragu with Orecchiette

Slow Cooker Beef Cheek Ragu with Orecchiette
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6-8 servings
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 2 pound beef cheek, excess fat trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 can (28 oz) whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 can water
  • 8 ounces orecchitte
  1. Place the onions, thyme, rosemary, oregano and .garlic into a large slow cooker.
  2. Season the beef cheek with salt and red pepper, place on top of the vegetables.
  3. Pour the can of tomatoes onto the beef.
  4. Using clean hands, crush the tomatoes to release their juices.
  5. Fill the tomato can with water and pour into the slow cooker.
  6. Set the slow cooker to high.
  7. Cook for 6 - 6½ hours, until the meat is very tender.
  8. Remove the cheek from the slow cooker and shred the meat.
  9. Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce, removing any herb stems in the sauce.
  10. Return the meat to the sauce.
  11. Adjust the seasoning if needed.
  12. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions.
  13. Serve the ragu over the cooked pasta.


Slow Cooker Beef Cheek Ragu with Orecchiette

Italian Sausage Ragu

Italian Sausage Ragu | Black Girl Chef's Whites



One good meat sauce is all you need.  This is that sauce.

OK, there are a million fantastic meat sauce recipes out there. But this is mine. And I like it.

I hope you do too.


Recipe: Italian Sausage Ragu


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casing
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes in sauce
  • 1 cup water


  1. In a large skillet, over medium high flame, heat the olive oil, and brown the sausage.
  2. Remove the sausage from the skillet and reserve.
  3. Add the onion, cook 3 – 4 minutes until softened.
  4. Add the garlic, thyme, basil, salt, fennel seed and red pepper flakes.
  5. Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 – 2 minutes, until the garlic and spices are fragrant.
  6. Add the can of tomatoes, including the juice, and the water.
  7. Using the spoon, break up the tomatoes.
  8. Return the sausage to the pan.
  9. Bring the sauce to a boil, them reduce to a simmer.
  10. Simmer the sauce for about 30 – 40 minutes, until the flavors have developed.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 40 minute(s)

Copyright © Cheryl D Lee.

Organic Summer Tomato Sauce

This was originally posted last summer. I wanted to repost it now because I see tomatoes growing in gardens everywhere. Soon, the growers will have too many tomatoes to eat, and this sauce is a great way to use them. And if you don’t grow your own, the farmer’s markets are full of delicious, heirloom, organic summer tomatoes.


Tomatoes are everywhere! Summer’s abundance of fresh, locally grown, heirloom and supermarket tomatoes always amazes me. I remember the days of only round cherry tomatoes and tasteless red slicing tomatoes in the market. Now, there are so many heirloom varieties being grown, making them available at farmer’s markets and conventional supermarkets.

My friend Loretta is a Tomato Goddess. She grows these amazing, juicy, sweet, fat, luscious tomatoes every year. Lots of varietals, lots of colors, and lots of flavor! She tells me her four year old son raids the plants, darting between the rows, picking the ripe fruits and stuffing them into his mouth as fast as he can! I don’t blame him.

She came to visit the other day and brought me fresh San Marzano tomatoes from her garden. I have only seen this variety canned, usually imported from Italy. They do make delicious sauce, so I knew that was the fate of those lovelies you see pictured above.

Making a good sauce only requires patience. Tomato sauce needs to bubble and simmer for awhile for all the flavors to marry into a sweet and tangy sauce. Make sure the wine you add to the sauce is one you would drink.  I always say, never cook with a wine you couldn’t pour a glass of for a guest. Or drink a glass of while you are cooking. . .

Once you get it all in the pot, you let it bubble and simmer away.

And hour later you have a gorgeous sauce.

I like to put my sauce through a food mill to puree it.  This mill was part of my mom’s pots and pans set. It’s designed to fit right over one of the set’s saucepans, so you could puree right into the pot!

One of the reasons I like a food mill is that I do not have to peel the tomatoes before chopping and cooking. Not that peeling tomatoes is hard, but if I can skip a step somewhere, I’m good. If you don’t have a food mill, I would suggest peeling the tomatoes. Head on over to my friend Tori’s blog The Shiksa in the Kitchen, for a tutorial on how to peel tomatoes.



Recipe: Organic Fresh San Marzano Tomato Sauce


  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds fresh San Marzano tomatoes, or other ripe summer tomato, chopped
  • 1 cup dry red wine


  1. Heat the oil over over medium heat in a large, deep skillet or pot.
  2. Cook the onion 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent.
  3. Add the garlic, salt, basil, oregano, thyme and pepper. Cook an additional 1-2 minutes, until the garlic is very fragrant.
  4. Add the tomatoes and wine, stirring to mix well.
  5. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce to a low simmer, and let cook for 50 minutes to one hour. Stir the sauce occasionally to make sure the sauce is not reducing too quickly.
  6. Pass the tomato sauce through a food mill, or puree in a food processor. Adjust the seasoning as needed.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 15 minute(s)

Makes 3 cups of tomato sauce.