Hazelnut Pesto Caprese Couscous

Let’s all celebrate Labor Day by NOT laboring.

Hazelnut Pesto Caprese Couscous | CaliGirl Cooking (www.caligirlcooking.com)

You heard me right. These days, especially in America, it feels like everyone is running the crazy race of life non-stop. Staying at the office late, continuing to check (and respond to) emails into the wee hours of the night, working on the weekends, not taking vacation days. Who are we? Why can’t we take after, say, the French, where four weeks of vacation a year are the norm and people in the workforce go out for two hour lunches every day?

This hectic white-collar life is partly what spurred me to turn this blog into a business, to branch out on my own and become self-employed. I was tired of being expected to stay at the office for eight hours a day, even if I’d finished all of my work. I was tired of having to work holidays and weekends (hello, hospitality life) and not having a say in when or where I worked. I’ve never been the type to “slack off,” and often found my efficiency at getting things done working to my disadvantage. I was sitting at work, twiddling my thumbs and thinking of all of the other things I could be doing (non-work related) that needed to get done. Being the Type A go-getter that I am, I wanted to be in control of my own destiny. So that’s just what I did.

Hazelnut Pesto Caprese Couscous | CaliGirl Cooking (www.caligirlcooking.com)

Now that I’m working for myself, I’m focusing on not getting sucked into the all-too-easy habit of spending every waking hour working on furthering my business. As an entrepreneur, I’m becoming all too familiar with the feeling that I need to prove myself, that I can’t “slack off” or get out of the house for a day to do something I love because then it wouldn’t look like I was trying hard enough. There’s a lot to live up to when you branch out on your own, and that places a big weight on your shoulders.

But you know what? I’ve realized that is not how I should frame my new self-employed work structure, After all, as my good friend Tara reminded me, this is what we’ve worked so hard to AVOID by becoming our own bosses. We shouldn’t feel guilty about shutting down our computers at 3pm on a Tuesday, or not doing ANY work over the weekend, because that’s what we set out to avoid after all.

So I took my own advice to heart and busted my butt last week to get everything queued up and ready to go for the blog over the weekend, so I could kick back, spend some time with the hubs (whose finally feeling better, thank goodness!) and just plain ENJOY a three-day weekend. I can’t remember the last time I did that! And you know what, it was glorious. And I don’t regret a thing.

Hazelnut Pesto Caprese Couscous | CaliGirl Cooking (www.caligirlcooking.com)

Okay, wow, I guess we should finally talk about the whole reason we’re here today, this Hazelnut Pesto Caprese Couscous! What started that little rant up there was the fact that I wanted to get across to you just how easy this recipe is. You will not have to “labor” at all to make it, unless you count running your food processor or boiling a pot of water as “laboring.”

I’ve mentioned it before when I shared this Herbed Grain Salad with Broccoli Rabe and White Beans, but I am totally digging grain salads these days. I love the plethora of fresh fruits, herbs and vegetables that go into them and the juxtaposition of some hearty, filling whole grains.

I know I’m not the only one experiencing a love affair with end-of-summer produce, and all of the fresh tomatoes and basil have been calling my name. I was dying to figure out more ways to use them! And so this Hazelnut Pesto Caprese Couscous appeared.

Hazelnut Pesto Caprese Couscous | CaliGirl Cooking (www.caligirlcooking.com)

Tell me, how do you feel about couscous? I have to admit, I’m a little picky. I used to not dig the typical light, fluffy couscous too much, but I’ve come around a bit on that one (it all goes along with how deliciously it’s prepared!) Nevertheless, when given the choice, I’ll opt for a heartier version, like bigger, thicker Israeli couscous. This tends to fill me up a bit more, plus it’s a little closer to pasta which we all know goes perfectly with basil and tomatoes.

So, we’ve got our Israeli couscous ready to go and now we need to caprese it up (yes, I just turned that into a verb.) I originally wanted to use fresh burrata for the cheese, but sadly our local store was fresh out of the stuff, so I had to settle for ciliegine (the little balls of mozzarella.) I then picked up a few perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes and a big bunch of fresh basil from the Farmer’s Market.

I decided that, since we had a heavier grain base for this Hazelnut Pesto Caprese Couscous, it might be best to turn the basil into a pesto as opposed to just tossing it into the salad itself. Boy, was I right? The dressing is the perfect way to balance out all of the flavors in this dish and ensure you get all of the tastiness in every single bite.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why I went with hazelnut instead of the typical pine nut, there are two reasons: (1) Pine nuts are ridiculously expensive (whyyyyyyy?) and (2) I just so happened to have some hazelnuts in the pantry that needed to be used up. Feel free to use whatever nuts you have on hand for this recipe. Walnuts, pecans or almonds would all be fantastic as well.

And did I mention that our Hazelnut Pesto Caprese Couscous is super easy to make? No laboring here. Simply boil up some water to cook the couscous, throw all of the pesto ingredients in a food processor (or blender) and mix all of the ingredients together in a big bowl. Does it get much easier than that?

Hazelnut Pesto Caprese Couscous | CaliGirl Cooking (www.caligirlcooking.com)

Now, I’ve certainly rambled on enough in this post and you most definitely need to get outside and start enjoying this holiday Monday (so do I), so without further ado, here’s the recipe!

Hazelnut Pesto Caprese Couscous
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
25 mins
A fun, healthy take on the classic caprese salad featuring Israeli couscous, peak season heirloom tomatoes and delicious hazelnut pesto.
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: grains, meal prep, pesto, salad, side dish, summer
Servings: 6 people
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
For the pesto:
  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • ¼ cup hazelnuts toasted
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Juice of ½ of a large lemon
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
All other ingredients:
  • 2 cups cooked Israeli couscous cook according to package directions
  • 5 medium heirloom tomatoes cut into thin wedges
  • 8 ounces ciliegine mozzarella
  • Salt to taste
  1. Place all pesto ingredients except olive oil in a food processor or blender. Pulse until mixture begins to come together, then stream in the olive oil while the processor or blender is running. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine couscous, tomatoes and mozzarella. Stir in pesto and season with salt if needed. Enjoy or refrigerate until ready to eat!


Hazelnut Pesto Caprese Couscous | CaliGirlCooking.com

I’ll take the whole bowl please!!

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