Pesto has always been one of my favorite sauces but freshly made pesto trumps any of the packaged stuff you can buy. Just seeing the bright green color bursting in the food processor, whirring to smooth perfection, will tell you that this is definitely worth making at home. Many supermarkets sell whole basil plants potted in soil to grow on a sunny windowsill. If you can find this, not only will you have a continuous crop of basil but your house will smell so delicious! The versatility of pesto lends itself to many dishes, including the obvious wonderful pasta dish. It’s nice to keep a container of homemade pesto in the fridge to use on any or all of the following serving suggestions:
• serve it over cold cherry tomatoes
• use it as salad dressing
• spread it on a sandwich
• drizzle it on pizza
• brush it on grilled vegetables
• spoon it on top of a baked potato
• place it on little toasts for bruschetta
Basil pesto typifies the sauce that we have come to love and expect but many cooks vary the type of leaf they use–cilantro, parsley, mint, arugula--for a variation in taste and for a twist on the usual basil type. Adding lime juice instead of lemon juice gives it spritely flavor or adding sun-dried tomatoes gives it an earthy heartiness! Even changing the nuts used, like trying out cashews, can turn out a whole new dish. Some recipes add a ripe avocado to the mix for extra creaminess, which I will definitely try in my next batch. Part of the tastiness of pesto comes from the cheesy flavor of the parmesan usually used but for vegan pesto, nutritional yeast is a perfect substitute and no flavor will be lost in the translation! Of course, vegan parmesan can also be used, as well.
EASY VEGAN PESTO SAUCE: It Goes On Everything!
- 4 cups torn fresh basil leaves (no stems)
- 4 Tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 cup pine nuts
- 1 cup shelled walnuts (halves or pieces)
- juice of a half lemon
- 6 Tablespoons nutritional yeast (“nooch”)
- 5 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1) Place basil, garlic, nuts, lemon juice and nutritional yeast in a food processor.
- 2) Run the food processor for about a minute and then start pouring the olive oil in through the opening
- 3) Process until the mixture is pureed and smooth, about 3 minutes.
- 4) Add salt and pepper to taste
- 5) Add to pasta and serve.
- 6) Store covered in the refrigerator for a few days.
Plating and photograph by Beth Schwartz, a dear friend and supporter