Thursday, July 18, 2024

Easy Pesto Couscous Recipe Pairs Well With Grilled Meat & Fish

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This Pesto Couscous Recipe has all the Italian flavors you love in a simple side dish that requires minimal prep and cooking time. My easy couscous uses basil pesto, sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan cheese to create the perfect pairing for grilled meats.

Pesto Couscous Recipe by CampingForFoodies features a blue camping bowl filled with fluffy small round pasta balls, chopped deep red sun dried tomatoes, green capers and white shredded Parmesan cheese. The bowl is set on a picnic table on a sunny day. A spoon is inserted into the dish and a hand is sprinkling cheese on the couscous.

Why This Works

Couscous one of those camping side dishes that pairs well with any cuisine on your menu because it’s really bland and that’s the beauty of it! You can build any flavor profile you want when you use this versatile pasta as a base.

Couscous has a texture and consistency that is a cross between rice and pasta. Some couscous is cooked in boiling water, other types are steamed. The most common types of couscous are Moroccan, Pearl (also known as Israeli) and Lebanese.

  • Moroccan (small): These tiny pieces are cooked by steaming so it is super simple to make this variety of couscous. All you need to do is boil a liquid, take it off the heat, stir in the couscous, cover with a lid and let the liquid absorb. The “cooking” process only takes about five minutes. That’s why it is a camp cook’s dream! There is no timing or tending required with Moroccan couscous.
  • Pearl/Israeli Couscous (medium): The names “pearl” and “Israeli” couscous are used interchangeably. These little pearls are about the size of a peppercorn. The balls are slightly larger than Moroccan couscous which means they require a different cooking method that involves a little more time. Pearl couscous is cooked more like pasta. You bring a pot of liquid to a boil, add the couscous, reduce the heat to a nice simmer and cover with a lid. Once the couscous is fully cooked you fluff it with a fork and serve it. The tiny pasta beads cook in about 10 minutes. This is the type of couscous we’re using in today’s recipe.
  • Lebanese (large): This is the largest variety of the three major types of couscous, they are similar in size to chickpeas. This type is cooked like Israeli couscous but takes a little longer to cook through, about 15 minutes. Because of its size, Lebanese couscous is slightly chewier than the smaller varieties.

Key Ingredients & Substitutions

Recipe Ingredients For Pesto Couscous by CampingForFoodies features a tray lined with white paper towels. The tray holds ingredients in bowls and measuring cups including white small pearls of Israeli couscous, golden yellow chicken broth, white salt, black pepper, white shredded Parmesan cheese, bright green basil pesto, bright red sun dried tomatoes, dark green small capers and deep red pepper flakes. The tray is set on a brown picnic table on a bright sunny day.

This side dish uses basic ingredients that create intense flavor.

  • Israeli couscous
  • Chicken broth
  • Basil pesto

Israeli couscous: The size of these little pearls of pasta provide the perfect texture for this dish. If you don’t have Israeli couscous you can substitute Lebanese couscous, allow for an extra few minutes of cooking time. I don’t recommend using Moroccan couscous because the tiny beads have a really light texture that doesn’t hold up well to the bold pesto and sun-dried tomatoes in this dish.

Chicken broth: Using broth provides a layer of flavor you can’t get by cooking the couscous in water. If you want to keep it vegetarian, substitute vegetable broth for the cooking liquid.

Basil pesto: When I have an abundance of basil in my garden, I love making homemade pesto and freezing it for future use. Here, I’m just using a fresh store-bought pesto from the refrigerator section in the grocery store. If you can’t find that, you can use jarred pesto but the flavor won’t be as bright so it’s a good idea to add a little fresh basil for garnish and freshness.


Key Equipment

This easy side uses one pot for cooking and serving.

  • Medium saucepan with tight-fitting lid

Medium saucepan: A medium pan is perfect for making 4-6 servings of this couscous. If you don’t have a tight-fitting lid, you can just cover the pot with a cookie sheet or a piece of aluminum foil. If you increase the number of servings, you may need a larger pot.


How To Make

This Pesto Couscous Recipe is easy to make and quick to cook. Watch my VIDEO to see how I made it using my propane camp stove.

Preparation

Step 1. Prepare the ingredients. The only thing you must chop is the sun-dried tomatoes. If you have a block of Parmesan cheese, you’ll need to shred that as well.

Cooking Instructions

Step 2. Boil the liquid. Pour chicken broth into a medium saucepan, place it over high heat to bring it to a boil. If you’re cooking over a campfire, make sure you use a pot that is made for campfire cooking, avoid non-stick pots and equipment with plastic handles.

Bring Chicken Broth To A Boil by CampingForFoodies features a pot set on a camp stove. A liquid measuring cup is used to pour chicken broth into the pot. The outdoor scene in the background is under a bright sunny day.

Step 3. Cook the couscous. Stir couscous into the boiling liquid.

Add Couscous To Boiling Liquid by CampingForFoodies features a hand holding a measuring cup filled with Israeli couscous that is being poured into boiling chicken broth in a pot set on a propane camp stove on top of a brown picnic table on a sunny day.

Add a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer. In about 10 minutes, the couscous will be tender and the liquid will be absorbed.

Season With Salt by CampingForFoodies features two fingers releasing white salt in the air above a pot that contains couscous simmering in chicken broth. The pot is set on a propane camp stove that is sitting on a brown picnic table on a sunny day.

Step 4. Fluff the couscous. Remove the pot from the heat and fluff the couscous using a fork.

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Step 5. Stir the add-ins. Stir the basil pesto sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, capers and red pepper flakes into the cooked couscous.

Add Sun-Dried Tomatoes To Couscous by CampingForFoodies features a hand holding a measuring cup filled with bright red sun dried tomatoes. A spoon is being used to scrape the tomatoes into the pot of cooked couscous.

Make sure the ingredients are fully incorporated. Season with salt and black pepper according to your taste preferences.

Stir Add-Ins With Cooked Couscous by CampingForFoodies features a hand holding a small container which is pouring small capers into a pot filled with cooked couscous, sun dried tomatoes and a wooden spoon ready to mix the ingredients together. The pot is set on a propane camp stove that’s sitting on a brown picnic table on a sunny day.

Step 6. Top and serve. Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over the couscous and serve immediately. If desired, add ribbons of fresh basil too.

Fluff With Fork And Serve by CampingForFoodies features a blue camping bowl being held above the pot filled with Pesto Couscous. A wooden spoon is being used to transfer the pasta into the serving bowl. The pot is set on a brown picnic table on a bright sunny day.

Expert Tip

Typically, couscous is made using a process that grounds durum wheat into semolina flour which is mixed with water to create small, uniform pasta balls. When made by hand, the pasta is fresh. During commercial production, the pasta is dried and packaged as a shelf-stable food which makes it great for camping.

Couscous has a very mild, nutty flavor. Because it’s nearly flavorless, couscous is the perfect canvas to build any flavor-profile with additional elements. This popular ingredient has been used across the world for centuries. It’s particularly popular in stews and as a base to soak up meals served with flavorful sauces. Because of its size, shape and texture, it can easily be substituted for rice in almost any recipe.


Variations

It’s easy to enhance the flavor of couscous by cooking it in broth, adding herbs, spices and aromatics. You can also mix in dried fruits, vegetables, nuts or proteins to create different flavor and texture profiles.

Some common spices include:

  • Paprika
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Turmeric

Some common add-ins include:

  • Almonds
  • Pistachios
  • Dried cranberries, raisins or apricots
  • Dried vegetable blends

Some common dairy additions include:

  • Mozzarella balls
  • Feta cheese

Some common proteins include:

  • Cooked shrimp
  • Cooked chicken
  • Roasted fresh vegetables
  • Tofu

Pairings

This Pesto Couscous pairs well with grilled meats, I especially like it with my Grilled Dijon Chicken With Garlic And Jalapeño. Anything with an Italian flavor profile goes well with this dish too, if you can serve it with garlic bread, this couscous is the perfect side dish. Another great option is my Grilled Pork Loin Roast that uses a few simple ingredients and requires very little prep.


FAQs

Do I need to rinse couscous before cooking it?

Even though couscous looks like a grain, it’s technically a pasta made with semolina flour so it does not have to be rinsed before it’s cooked.

Is couscous gluten-free?

Traditional couscous is made from durum wheat, so it contains gluten. However, there are gluten-free alternatives available in most grocery stores and online.

Can I freeze cooked couscous?

You can freeze cooked couscous. It’s best to let the couscous cool then spread it out into a single layer for freezing. Then, transfer the frozen pearls into a food storage container and keep frozen for up to 4 months. It will become mushy if you just freeze it in a big block.


Leftovers

This Pesto Couscous Recipe is great as reheated or reinvented leftovers. Store leftovers in a fridge or cooler in an airtight container up to four days.

  • To reheat: Add a little water or broth to the couscous and heat over low heat on the stovetop or in a microwave until warm. Fluff with fork and serve.
  • To reinvent: These leftovers make a nice base for a cold pesto couscous salad. To prepare the salad, dump leftovers into a large bowl and toss with fresh veggies. You can use whatever you have on hand but I like using a combination of diced zucchini, cucumber, red bell pepper, red onion, kalamata olives and a few handfuls of fresh greens like arugula or spinach. When I want to add some protein, I add a can of drained black beans. If the salad is too dry, just add a splash of olive oil and toss to coat.
  • I don’t recommend freezing these leftovers with the add-ins because the consistency gets mushy.

Servings

This recipe makes 4 servings as a side dish. If you’re cooking for a larger group, adjust the number of servings in the recipe card and don’t forget to increase the size of your saucepan if you’re making more than 8 servings.


Similar Camping Side Dishes

If you love this couscous, here are a few other dishes you may want to try.

Use my camping menu planner to stay organized when planning meals for your next trip. It’s FREE and you’ll get it delivered instantly to your inbox!

Camping Menu Template Meal Planner Free Printable by CampingForFoodies features a collage of free camping printables including a camping menu planner template, a campfire stew recipe card and a healthy no cook camping salad with text over the image that reads free camping menu template, tips and recipe ideas.

Watch How To Make It

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Recipe

Pesto Couscous Recipe by CampingForFoodies features a blue camping bowl filled with fluffy small round pasta balls, chopped deep red sun dried tomatoes, green capers and white shredded Parmesan cheese. The bowl is set on a picnic table on a sunny day. A spoon is inserted into the dish and a hand is sprinkling cheese on the couscous.
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous
  • 1.5 cups chicken broth vegetable broth or water may be substituted

Add-Ins

  • 1/3 cup basil pesto
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil chopped
  • 2 tablespoons small capers
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • In a medium saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil over high heat.

  • Stir in the Israeli couscous and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until the couscous is tender and has absorbed the liquid, about 8-10 minutes.

  • Remove the pot from the heat, fluff couscous with a fork.

  • Stir in the basil pesto sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, capers and red pepper flakes. Make sure the ingredients are fully incorporated.

  • Season with salt and black pepper according to your taste preferences.

  • Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese (and fresh basil, if desired) over the couscous and serve immediately.

Calories: 307kcal | Carbohydrates: 43g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 8mg | Sodium: 752mg | Potassium: 568mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 630IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 138mg | Iron: 2mg

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