Oct 14, 2013

Pesto. Vegan and Oil-free.

Strangely, even with my Italian grandmother in the kitchen, we didn’t have pesto much in my house while I was growing up. Lots of tomato sauce, garlic and olive oil, even some unusual but delicious sauce that Mom and Grandma used to make for pasta that was made from freshly grated horseradish… but not a lot of pesto.

The first time I recall really noticing this magical, green sauce was when I ate lunch at a little vegetarian restaurant in Greenwich Village (one of the first of its kind in the early 80s). The bright green pesto was tossed with spinach fettucini. Green on green. I was instantly smitten. Of course, it contained LOTS of the two usual suspects ingredients in traditional pesto: olive oil and parmesan cheese. But I’ve been a big fan of that flavor ever since…

Enter oil-free, dairy-free pesto. Every bit as flavorful and satisfying for sure. In this recipe I used a TON of basil. Keep in mind you can always use spinach and basil, half and half, if you’d rather not buy out the store of all its basil. I happen to have a ginormous basil plant in my garden and it’s rapidly approaching do-or-die-harvest time. Literally. The freezing temps are just around the corner. So I figured I’d better start making use of that happy herb. I swear, he is the happiest plant in the garden. Literally three feet wide and just flourishing away.

Another thing about pesto… if you can find them, inexpensively (good luck), pine nuts are the absolute best to use in a pesto. But, alas, I just can’t come to terms with $20 and up per pound for the cute little nuts.

One of the great things about pesto is that you can make a bunch and freeze it for future use. So go for it…

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups tightly-packed basil leaves (or substitute 2 of the cups with baby spinach)
  • 2 cups raw walnuts
  • 8 cloves garlic (yes you read that right, EIGHT)
  • juice of one lemon (about 2 TBS)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup water

Directions:

  1. Pulse the walnuts and garlic in a food processor until the walnuts are finely chopped, but not mushy.
  2. Place in a medium sized mixing bowl and mix in the nutritional yeast.
  3. Pulse the basil in the food processor with the lemon juice until finely chopped.
  4. Add to the walnut mixture and stir well to combine.
  5. Add the water and stir to combine.
  6. Serve over pasta of your choice.
NOTE: For a creamy pesto, simply blend all ingredients in a blender. This makes a wonderful sauce for veggies and even for salads. I prefer the chunky version myself for pasta.
Makes about 3 cups. Enjoy!

Healthy trails,

18 responses to “Pesto. Vegan and Oil-free.”

  1. hehe….I have been making pesto by the bucket full lately due to our rocket being out of control – that stuff will grow like a weed! I made several different batches (similar to your recipe) with various nuts (pine / almond / walnut / cashew) and some without Garlic for ppls who prefer without. I don't have nutritional yeast so I just put a little salt or tamari in (don't need a lot as it is fine with just the citrus – I used lemon for some and lime for some)…..Basil pesto is a summer thing – our basil is only at the seedling stage now but rock on december / January and I will be filling up the freezer with basil pesto too. I use this stuff on canapes (as mentioned in a previous comment on you sweet potato dip) on pizza, as a dip…..yummmmmmmm……I remember my first pesto experience too and that was back in the day where I loved parmesan cheese…..never thought I could do a pesto without cheese but this is fine and you get the full taste of the herbs this way.

  2. Helyn says:

    P.S. Do you have a good online source for pine nuts?

  3. Helyn says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Helyn says:

    My, my, my…. I love your comments! I think it's time you had your own blog. Your writing style is so refreshing and well, why not?? Rock on, rocket! πŸ™‚

  5. The cheapest I've seen pine nuts in $11.99/lb or $15.99/lb for organic at Nuts.com…
    https://www.nuts.com/search?q=pine+nuts
    They offer free shipping specials via email newsletter, so I wait for one and do a bulk order of all sorts of nuts, dried fruits, grains, nut butters, seeds, spices, etc. Totally worth it. πŸ™‚

  6. Helyn says:

    Oooh… great! Thanks for that. I will give them a try πŸ™‚

  7. Thanks for the recipe…the walnut base sounds delicious! I grew up in a pesto-less Italian household too and was completely surprised and smitten the first time I tasted it.
    My used to give me tons of fresh basil that he grew…I need to plant a few of my own. Now if you're talking a dandelion-based pesto, I've got an endless supply. πŸ˜‰

  8. Helyn says:

    Dandelion pesto… hmmmmm… πŸ™‚

  9. Thanks. People keep asking when I will blog, particularly when I post food porn pics on facebook, but I spend too much time doing to blog and there are so many good vegan blogs I feel kind of intimidated…..so I share ideas and get ideas from them. I wouldn't know the first thing about blogging anyway….although I have a lot of good friends who blogs so perhaps when the kids are bigger I will ask. Made more pesto today in between the house work, kindy runs (I mean that literally – I chase Master 4.75 on his peddle bike all the way to kindy 2km from home and then walk home only to do it again a few hours later!), grocery shopping and food prep for family dinner tonight.

    We had more cucumber canapes tonight this time with the fresh batch of pesto, french onion dip and olives and I did some as cos lettuce wraps instead for brothers GF who dislikes cucumber – she loved them and so did I actually!!

    Tried out a recipe from another blog (This Rawsome Vegan Life) for dessert. Chocolate fudge bars with pecans…..they were also a hit.

    I love your blog though…..some really inspired ideas on here…..particularly loving the nut based salad dressings currently and experimenting with my own versions using yours as a base…..

    I am so excited about food and constantly think about it….so finding new things to try or inventing them is a passion!

  10. Helyn says:

    Yes, it is time consuming, that's for sure, and you certainly sound super busy already! You must be in shape with all that running!!! I saw those chocolate fudge bars. I may try them too…

  11. About 18 months ago I decided it was time to change the diet I used to think was healthy (essentially it was similar to your changes to a nutritarian diet except I had never heard that term until I came across your blog) essentially I reduced carbs, took out refined flour / sugar / oil etc and although I am not quite vegan I eat mostly vegan. Around the same time I started exercising more (again I thought I was pretty fit). Well …. with the changes in diet I droped about 4kg then another few with the exercise. I have 2 kids 4.75 and 2.75 when I got married I was about 77kg and size 16-18. When I got pg with first I was about the same. I dropped a lot of weight after first child through feeding and not trying hard much else and was 69kg when I got pregnant with my second child. By the time she was 6 months or so I was about 67kg and a size 12-14. Now I am under 60kg and a size 8-10 and in the best shape of my life!! Even though I turn 40 next year I feel much younger and have so much energy to do all the stuff I need to. I work out 6 or 7 days a week (currently doing T25) and walk or run at least 3 days a week and do yoga once a week. I also work just over half time and sing in a vocal ensemble / play in an instrumental group……hence free time is rare. My free time is spent in the kitchen though…..time for a tablet though so I can write recipes down as I go on that so I can repeat them.

    Oh also for dinner last night (prepared ahead) were lentil and vegetable soup (like yours) and chollent. I love my slow cooker……both were done it that.

    I am trying to get my family (mum / dad / brother) into this style of eating. It is my birthday soon and my brother is hosting a family dinner for me. I have requested at least 2 recipes from this site I haven't tried myself yet (the cold rolls and the curry tofu dish with stirfry). He even said he likes the look of them. Here's hoping they catch on.

  12. Helyn says:

    Rach, thanks for sharing your story… very inspirational! That's so cool that you play and sing in a band. I used to do that too. Happy early birthday to you! πŸ™‚

  13. Thanks….my brother just posted a pic on facebook of his dinner tonight….salt and pepper tofu and steamed bok choi…..OMG he ate a vegan meal I didn't cook…..perhaps it is catching on already πŸ™‚

  14. Helyn says:

    Ha! That's great! πŸ™‚

  15. Anonymous says:

    Are you saying that if you can get pine nute – to add them instead of the walnuts? Or to add whole pine nuts after making the pesto? Thanks, JayX

  16. Helyn says:

    If you prefer and can afford them, use pine nuts INSTEAD of walnuts. πŸ™‚

  17. Curt says:

    Outstanding Pesto! What a gold mine this website is! Thank you Helyn!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *