Easy Vegan Basil Pesto
I love pesto. There are few things more delicious than fresh herb pesto, and few things easier to make on the fly. Pesto has so many variations and after you make it a couple of times it gets easier and easier to make and even improvise! Once you get the hang of the basics; try subbing different kinds of nuts: Pine nuts give such a rich almost smoky flavor but are quite expensive, walnuts are still rich and creamy but less expensive, i went through a phase where i was subbing shelled edamame (soy beans) into the pesto which is really fresh tasting, inexpensive, and high nutritional value. Feel free to experiment with herbs too. A great combo is walnut and fresh parsley, a little brighter than basil — and basil’s not always available at the market unless its the middle of summer! Let’s start with the basics — you need oil, herbs, nuts, salt/pepper. Most restaurant pesto or bought pesto has parmesan or romano cheese in it. There are a few ways to get a little more cheesy flavor, such as nutritional yeast and/or miso, but its not even always necessary or missed — because the herbs are the star of the show! To my friends who are allergic to garlic, just leave it out, it will still taste great. I’m so used to throwing pesto together by feel now, but for you folks who like to measure things out there I’ve used some approximate measurements to establish a basic recipe. Pesto also freezes great so make a big batch and freeze some for later. Then it's super easy to pull the frozen pesto out for a quick weeknight dinner. When freezing use as small a container as possible as the basil will turn brown where exposed to air. A few words about the technique used below — I used to just throw the ingredients together in a food processor or blender and be done with it. That’s perfectly fine. It will work. You will end up with pesto. In recent years, I’ve learned a couple of more subtle tricks over the years which really help make the best possible pesto. 3 large cloves garlic 1/4 cup or more olive oil (according to texture) 1 cup walnuts (or other nut) basil 1 tbs nutritional yeast 1/2 tbs miso page pinch of salt (more if not using the miso) 1 tsp black pepper
Blanch your garlic in boiling water for a minute before processing — it takes that spicy, sharp edge off the garlic for a smoother taste.
Submerge the basil in a large bowl or pot of water to wash (this way the fine sand and dirt falls to the bottom of the water bath) pull the leaves off the stems. Lightly chop the leaves with a knife, just a couple of loose cuts is fine. The idea here is to bruise the basil as little as possible, so a couple of slices help the food processor get to work without having to completely macerate the basil.
Place oil, walnuts, garlic, nutritional yeast, miso, black pepper and salt in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
Add basil and pulse until basil is blended into the pesto, be cautious not to over blend, the basil will retain more freshness.
Add the fresh pesto to veggies, pasta, or tofu!
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Illustration by Beth Sworobuk