Can Babies Have Pesto?
Most pestos are fine to introduce to your baby's diet as soon as they start weaning, but there are some risk factors to take into account.
There are so many variations of the traditional basil pesto that it is impossible to give every single one the "OK" when it comes to feeding it to your baby. However, there are some key things to look out for...
Firstly, you need to make sure the sauce is well pureed. Many premium pestos are purposely kept quite chunky, so we always advise giving pesto an extra blitz in a blender before feeding it to babies.
Ingredients in basil pesto
There are no ingredients of particular concern in classic basil pesto which contains olive oil, pine nuts, basil, garlic, cheese and salt. All these ingredients are fine for babies, unless of course, they have already shown signs of allergies to any of them.
Just like adults, it's not recommended for babies to have too much salt in their diets and some pesto sauces (cheaper ones in particular) do have quite high levels, so that's something to watch out for.
Pasteurised, full-fat cheeses like Parmesan are fine for babies aged 6-months old. However, just like when pregnant, the NHS recommends avoiding mould-ripened cheeses like brie, or blue-veined cheeses like stilton until your child is at least two years old.
Whilst babies should never be fed whole nuts, most allergists agree that nuts can be introduced to your baby's diet from around 6-months old.
There are some highly unusual pestos on the market (including one that contains a spreadable salami called 'nduja) so that would have to be avoided due to the cured meat content. Some pestos may also contain quite large amounts of lemon juice which is also best avoided until your baby is around 1-year old.
Other well-known foodstuffs that are not suitable for babies include honey, shellfish, and raw egg whites. There's no reason why any pesto would contain them, but always check the label.
How about pasta?
As for introducing pasta to your baby's diet, it's good to recognise that there are two main types. The dried pasta you find in the ambient supermarket aisle will be made of durum wheat (semolina) and water, whilst the fresh pasta in the chilled aisle will normally be made with durum wheat and eggs.
Both wheat and eggs are allergens, so it's best to introduce pasta slowly and in small amounts to start with. We'd recommend starting with dried pasta first and then the fresh stuff. Just make sure to cook it a few minutes longer than usual. Al dente is great for adults but will be a bit more of a challenge for babies that are weaning.
Our go-to pasta shape for babies is fusilli. They tend to enjoy playing with this quirky-looking, tactical shape even if they don't end up eating much of it!