Years ago I made the mistake of telling Harrison I thought basil “smelled like summer”. I have no idea where that line came from, but it was so lame and so unlike me that he has never let me live it down. If he smells basil anywhere in his vicinity he stops, smells the air and says “Wait a minute. Is it just me or does it smell like summer?”. So bad. Pesto is the ultimate way to use up summertime basil. I like to make batches all summer long and freeze the extras in ice cube trays. My go to vegan pesto recipe uses cashews and lots of lemon. I like to make it very thick and then thin it out as needed depending on how I’m using the pesto. Having pesto on hand makes Meatless Monday meals a snap.
The idea to use cashews in pesto instead of traditional pinenuts comes from Dreena Burton. She has a delicious Lemony Cashew-Basil Pesto recipe in Eat, Drink and Be Vegan. Once I started using cashews in my pesto I never went back. Cashews make the pesto very rich so I don’t end up needing as much oil. Cashews are also considerably less expensive than pinenuts.
Trey loves pesto in any dish. Recently I have been adding it to his grilled cheese (made with Follow Your Heart slices). He can’t get enough. His favorite way to use pesto is definitely in pasta. The kid loves his pasta! When I use the pesto in pasta I always take out 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and set it aside. Then when I mix the cooked pasta with the pesto I add the water in small amounts to thin the sauce to the right consistency. The starch from the pasta water helps the sauce stick to the pasta.
Other favorite vegan pesto uses:
- Top a lackluster store-bought vegan pizza with pesto to add creaminess and a punch of flavor
- Use pesto as the base of vegan pizza – works especially well if using a cornmeal crust
- Add more oil and vinegar for a unique salad dressing or to drizzle over sliced tomatoes
- Use pesto as a base spread for bruschetta appetizers
- Use as a spread for vegetable sandwiches
- Add to soup (either store bought or homemade) – my favorite is to stir pesto into minestrone
What are your favorite ways to use pesto?
- 1 large bunch Basil
- ½ cup Cashews
- 2 small or 1 large clove(s) garlic
- 3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast (optional)
- 2 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- Pick basil leaves off the stems. Place in the food processor with cashews. Pulse until cashews and basil are finely chopped.
- Add in remaining ingredients and run food processor for 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed. The pesto should be fairly smooth. Add more water or olive oil if needed. Taste for salt.