Makes 2 cups
Time: 20 minutes
I guess the sauce that speaks to my heart and runs through my veins more than anything is pesto. I love it on sandwiches, in soups, on scrambled tofu and stir-fries. I would eat it in a house and I would eat it with a mouse. I would even eat it with Václav Klaus (the president of the Czech Republic, duh.)
And I don’t discriminate with ingredients for my pesto, either. So long as it’s fresh and green, it’s fair game. I like to use all manner of nuts- pistachios, cashews, brazil nuts, no one comes out alive.
But when I want to feel my Brooklyn roots, I go classic: basil, pine nuts, olive oil. Still, even those simple flavors aren’t safe from my whims. This is the recipe for exactly the pesto that I crave — classic ingredients with a few minor adjustments.
Half the pinenuts are replaced with walnuts; a combo which started out as a cost saving measure, but now I just prefer the flavor and texture. Of course I always toast ‘em first to bring out the flavor. I keep it mostly basil, but a little bit of cilantro brightens things up, and some thyme because I’m Isa and I love thyme.
A splash of lemon heightens the flavors and provides some tang, and just a little nooch gives some craeminess and cheeziness. I replace half of the oil in a traditional pesto with some water, and it’s none the worse for it. I actually prefer it this way because it’s not greasy.
The pesto makes enough for a pound of pasta. You can, of course, serve it a million ways, but since this is Comfort Food Month on my blog, I’m going to share my favorite!
I’ve spoken about my love for Louise Hagler’s Tofu Cookery before. And so of course her Tofu Balls have a place on my ideal pasta comfort plate. I make sure to add an extra huge pinch of oregano to them to provide a little herbal flavor contrast with the pesto. And another love is roasted cauliflower. When roasted, cauliflower develops an amazingly complex and nutty flavor that reminds me a little of a campfire. Maybe a campfire on prescription painkillers. It’s really really good. To roast cauliflower: 425 F oven, big pieces of cauli tossed with a little olive oil, salt and fresh black pepper. Large rimmed baking sheet, roast for about 20 minutes, flipping once. Voila!
And so, yeah, there it is, my soul bared in the form of a pesto pasta. And I even plan on doing a post about homemade pasta soon if you feel like going totally overboard this winter.
1/4 cup walnut halves
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
2 1/2 cups fresh basil
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Fresh black pepper (to finish)
First toast the nuts. I will let you in on my secret hybrid nut toasting method. Preheat a large heavy bottomed skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-low heat. First toast the walnuts for about 5 minutes, tossing them often. Then add the pinenuts for an additional 5. They should turn a few shades darker and smell warm and toasty.
Transfer toasted nuts to a food processor. Add the garlic and pulse everything into fine crumbs. Add the basil, cilantro, thyme, salt, nutritional yeast and water and puree until relatively smooth, scraping down the sides at least once to make sure you get everything. Stream in the olive oil and blend until well combined. Last but not least, blend in the lemon juice.
I serve it over warm pasta (don’t rinse, it needs the starch to stick), and finish it off with some fresh black pepper.
YES!! amazing pesto. best I’ve ever made or eaten 🙂 thank you! i added an extra garlic clove b/c i love me some garlic. Made the whole meal and added in some brussels sprouts too. Tofu balls so good we keep calling them YUM BALLS. lol. will be checking back for more delicious dishes.
OMG!!! This is the absolute BOMB!!! The bestest pesto EVER!!!!
awesome, I was just thinking about how pesto is one of the things I miss about becoming vegan (actually, I’m not vegan but pretty close…allergic to dairy, and soy, and before I found out about those allergies, I was already vegetarian. although I eat eggs, I won;t be using them in any of the vegan recipes I try). What does the nutritional yeast lend (besides nutrients) – flavor, texture?
I’m not a huge fan of walnuts, so I was wondering if it would be possible to substitute slivered almonds? I know I could sub more pine nuts, but they are way too pricey.
Just a side note, and hopefully I won’t go on and on, ad nauseum, as I tend to do….I used this pesto as a base pizza sauce with diced tomatoes, sliced black olives and Daiya cheese (some of the new block “Jack” cheese mixed with th Mozzarella) and dare I say…..YUM-A-LISH-OUS!!!!! I had some leftover sourdough starter that was ready to use, mixed it equal parts starter and flour along with some EVOO and salt. OMG!! Try i!
isa–what’s the best way to preserve this pesto? i’ve got a sh!t ton of basil growing in my garden and was thinking of making lots of pesto and then freezing it. thanks!
Bethany – when I make a ton of pesto, I first put it in ice cube trays or cupcake tins and freeze. Once frozen, I transfer them to gallon size freezer bags. That way I can just grab the amount of pesto I want. (Otherwise you’ll need an ice pick to chip off the desired amount, and you could lose an eye.) It’s a great treat in winter and super easy.
I just made this to make your pesto risotto but I used spinach because I was out of basil. It turned out delicious! Even my five and nine year old kids loved it. Thank you so much!
alright alright! i actually made this before writing the review and lemme tell ya — it’s so amazing. so, so, so, so amazing. definitely the bestest pesto…. besto pesto… bestesto pesesto. ever.
Delicious!!! I just used a 1/2 cup of walnuts instead of half pine nuts & half walnuts. Turned out great still.
Isa is not exaggerating: this IS the best(est) pesto! Even when using parsley in place of cilantro and stale pine nuts the first time because it’s all I had. When I made it again today, with fresh everything, it came out even better.
Thank you, Isa!
I make this pesto for pizza sauce. It’s delicious!
I wish they invented a computer that materialized food samples! Me so hungry. Me lick screen.
My non-vegan husband liked it so much that he wanted to eat it again the next night. Wonderful!!
Thank you for the scrumptious sounding vegan pesto. Looking forward to trying
This is amazing! We have a huge herb garden, and I’m pretty sure more basil than we actually planted 🙂 My husband has to be dairy free and I’m gluten free, so this worked our perfectly. After a short hunt to find nutritional yeast (I’m living in Australia right now), I tried it out tonight. I used at least 4 if not five different kinds of basil, and it’s BEAUTIFUL. I may try it without the salt next time, but it’s GORGEOUS. I completely recommend it! It’s a new favorite!
AMaze! very nice indeed. It’s winter here so I substituted the basil for sauteed leek and it made a great sauce!
thank you. 🙂
Made this one last night for your Pesto Risotto and it turned out SO creamy and delicious! I used all pecans, as I don’t care much for walnuts or pine nuts. I also subbed 1 t of dried thyme for the fresh variety. It was so very good. I mixed all of it in my Vitamix, and it was very smooth and emulsified. I might prefer it next time in a food processor, not quite so blended, but for the Risotto, it was perfect. Bravo, as always!
I absolutely LOVE pesto…but I always had a problem with how much oil is always in it. Makes it feel greasy and takes away the freshness of the ingredients. And since becoming vegan Ive missed good pesto pastas.
First time I made this (and every time since)…absolute HEAVEN. So fresh tasting and didn’t have the heavy oily feeling that normal pestos have. But just as creamy, toasty, and delicious.
I love to pair it with my Lemon Asparagus and other sauteed/steamed vegetables. YUM!
I hate pesto, really. I only make it every once in a while when I have too much basil leftover from another recipe. And I am always iffy about the small bits of basil in those recipes.
But holy crap is this stuff good. I could eat a whole bowl of it with a spoon. It is amazing. We had it over pasta the other night are using it as a sauce for pita pizzas tonight. I have since bought a huge amount of basil to make pesto which I have never done before. Thx for the recipe ♥
My friend and I made a doubled batch of this recently and it was amazing! It was super easy to make and it went great with the gnocchi we made. An awesome find
I was sceptical about this because of how good the VWAV pesto is, but not only was this really tasty, I think for pasta, it’s actually a better choice than the VWAV pesto. People worrying about the cilantro, I found the taste wasn’t actually very perceptible. The flavour was “basil plus something extra”, and if anything, I thought the thyme flavour was more obvious than the cilantro flavour. Overall, it’s got a lighter, fresher flavour than the VWAV pesto, and if you like to eat your pesto with wholemeal pasta, that’s of benefit!
Holy sh!t This was awesome! It was my first time making pesto too and I’m really impressed that I didn’t screw it up. I used 1/2 cup of cashews and I didn’t quite have enough basil, so I used spinach and parsley. It was also my first time trying out nooch. We are licking our plates over here. I only wish I made some more, but it’s so easy so I’m sure I’ll make it again soon. Thanks for a great recipe!
This is truly the bestest pesto! I planted a whole bunch of basil this year, partly to make sure I have enough to make and freeze a lot of this to eat through out the year. I made a double batch yesterday, the first of many. 🙂 Thanks so much for this and all of your recipes!
What a wonderful recipe! I made it today and the family loved it! I did notice the pesto turning darker as our meal progressed, by the end of the meal it was dark green. I was worried that it would e black in a few hours, so to prevent that everyone was served an extra helping. Should I put more lemon juice to prevent browning? And maybe more olive oil.? Has anyone else experienced that? I haven’t seen that happen before.
Just wondering how long this would keep in the refrigerator? I am getting married in a couple of weeks, and am preparing a vegan feast for my guests, and want to make some big batches of pesto pasta as one of the dishes, but could do with getting as much preparation done beforehand as possible!
I made your fab recipe. i used pistachio in place of pine nuts and lime instead of lemon because I had then on hand. Love, love, love it! I am going to farmers market to buy up supplies to make a HUGE batch. I love your blog and refer to it often. Thanks!
Knowing I had fabulous plans for her made it easier to harvest my giant basil plant. She had such a glorious summer. Now it’s time for bestest pesto and gnocchi. One of my favorite things about being vegan is your ppk blog. Thank you for being out there in the universe Isa. You are the bestest, your own self. Isa does it indeed. She sure does!!<3
Sounds delish! I’ll make this soon!