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Pesto pasta is a classic Italian dish that can easily be made vegan thanks to some clever substitutes. Pesto is an Italian sauce traditionally made up of basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, salt, parmesan cheese and olive oil. The ingredients are either pounded together in a pestle and mortar (the traditional way) or blitzed in a blender until the desired consistency is achieved. The required substitute to make this sauce vegan is parmesan cheese. In this recipe we substitute it for nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is something everyone following a plant based diet should have in their cupboard!
The beauty of pesto is the fresh ingredients. The basil has a wonderful aromatic, both sweet and savoury smell which is transferred to the sauce. The lemon juice gives it that extra “zing”. When broken down the pine nuts and oil give a slightly creamy mouthfeel. And, the garlic, salt and parmesan bring the more savoury tones to the sauce. It’s perfectly balanced in every way.
1 large bunch of basil, including the stalks
2 cloves of garlic
In a large pan of boiling, salted water cook the pasta according to its instructions (roughly 10 – 15 minutes).
In the meantime add the remaining ingredients into a blender and begin to pulse.
Continue to pulse until the desired consistency is achieved.
Serve with vegan parmesan and extra toasted pine nuts if you wish.
There are lots of ways to customise this dish. With the sauce you can choose to pulse the ingredients in your blender, getting a chunkier sauce or you can blend them completely for a more smooth and creamier finish. Some people like to add vegetables to their pesto pasta – maybe artichokes, roasted red peppers or simply cherry tomatoes. But pesto pasta is just as delicious served by itself, perhaps with a sprinkling of extra parmesan and a scattering of toasted pine nuts to highlight the ingredients in the sauce. You could also serve it with garlic bread or a side salad.
What’s great about this dish is that the pesto keeps really well in the fridge. You could make it in advance and store it for a couple of days either cooking the pasta fresh for a hot dish, or combining the pasta and sauce and leaving it in the fridge for a cold pasta salad as and when you need it. This makes it perfect for meal prepping and taking to work as a packed lunch.
How will you enjoy yours?