Lemony Pesto Pasta Sauce: No Need for Cheese! (Vegan Recipe)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Like so many vegan recipes, you won’t miss the dairy in this mix of garlicky herbaceous goodness that will make your pasta sing. The key to delicious: Make it your own!

I am fairly obsessed with pesto, perhaps because I didn’t grow up eating it and am making up for lost time. Pesto Genovese with basil and pine nuts is a classic, although I am particularly fond of parsley pistachio.

Indeed, I’ve made the point that, basically, many combinations of greens, vegetables, and herbs will pesto. Whether you like it thin and saucy or thick and textured (as seen in this photo), there are plenty of ways to get your pesto on.

The question I recently asked myself, however, is whether the cheese is really necessary in order for it to taste like pesto. In other words, can pesto go vegan, and still satisfy?

The answer is indeed YES, and to excellent effect. And, because it’s cheeseless, it also has fewer calories, if that’s of consideration.

What’s terrific about this recipe, like so many others I make, is that it’s an opportunity for you to get in the kitchen and play; it’s super easy and tasty and begs for you to make it your own. Simply taste as you go and stop when the concoction makes you smile. There is no “one” single recipe here. In fact, I futzed considerably—my idea of fun, really—and could have stopped several times along the way.

The upshot?

Do you.

Lemony Vegan Pesto, Your Way

Ingredients. Basil, parsley, kale, or any combo you like, about 6-8 cups; shelled green pistachios, 1/4-1 cup; olive oil, 1/4 cup at a time (ish); 5 or so cloves of fresh garlic, crushed; a few tablespoons of water; fresh lemon juice and zest from 1-2 lemons; 1/4 cup or more nutritional yeast.

Directions. Fill a food processor with greens and herbs and toss in the crushed garlic. Drizzle in olive oil while pulsing, until the mixture comes together. Taste, season with salt and pepper, add a bit of water until texture is of desired consistency, and taste again. I find this mixture to be lovely as is, actually. Next add the nuts, anywhere between 1/4 cup or more (or less; get the idea?). Then add zest and juice from the lemon(s), 1/2 lemon at a time. I ended up using the full two lemons, because that’s what I like, though my husband found it “way too lemony;” it’s a matter of perspective. You could stop here, too. I almost did, in fact, but then I wondered what would happen if I added some nutritional yeast, which some liken to cheese in flavor. I whhirred it in, one tablespoon at a time, then reseasoned with salt, pepper, and olive oil. (You’ll note the yeast creates a less vibrant shade of green.) I ended up at a thicker, more robust texture but have certainly made many thinner pestos many a time.

Note. Click here to watch a short cooking video where I make pesto.

Whatever version you make will be delightful, I assure you, because there’s nothing not delicious about fresh herbs and greens and crushed garlic mixed together with olive oil and lemon in a zesty, flavorful spread.

With or without the nutritional yeast, this an ideal summer pasta sauce, if you ask me, and can be put to good use in a whole slew of recipes found right here on my blog; just search “pesto” and you’ll be off and running. (Think: caprese salad with—wait for it—fresh juicy peaches.)

Happy Summer!


Learn more about nutrition scientist and food personality Dr. P.K. Newby, and check out her newest book. You can also follow her on FB, where she is much more active than on this blog. Or, click here if you just want to ogle food porn featuring plant-based, globally-inspired cuisine.

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Dr. P.K. Newby is a nutrition scientist, speaker, and author with expertise in all things food, farm to fork, whether preventing obesity and other chronic diseases through diet or teaching planet-conscious eating. As a health expert and food personality, she brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability to educate and inspire, helping people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. Healthy Hedonism (TM) is her philosophy: Because healthy food shouldn’t suck.

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