vegan • plant-based • dairy-free • gluten-free • low-carb • paleo

Shop-bought plant-based pesto is hard to come by, and pretty expensive – Suma do a red and a green version, for example. But if you have a food processor, high-speed blender or stick blender, and access to fresh basil, it’s really simple to make your own.

Pesto

Definition: a sauce of crushed basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil, typically served with pasta.
Origin: Italian, from pestare ‘pound, crush’.
– Oxford Dictionary


Fresh Basil

About the ingredients

Cut basil is fairly easy to get hold of from organic suppliers in the warmer months. If you can get a growing plant from a local nursery, that’s even better nutritionally. Better still, have a go at growing your own from seed – it’ll be happy on a windowsill all year round. Just make sure you leave the harvesting until the last minute, as it quickly wilts and goes brown.

I like to use plenty of spinach in this recipe, so as to make the pesto go further, and the portions more generous. I find 30g of basil for 4 servings is about the minimum you need to get the flavour, but if you have access to plenty of it, feel free to adjust the ratio of basil to spinach.

Organic pine nuts are quite easy to find. We like these Siberian ones. If you prefer you could substitute some or all in the recipe for cashews or walnuts.

The ‘parmesan’ taste comes from the combination of nutritional yeast and lemon juice. It’s best not to leave these ingredients out, as they really contribute to the tangy flavour. Organic, vegan, gluten-free nutritional yeast is actually a bit tricky to find. We use Marigold Engevita Yeast Flakes, from Forest Wholefoods. It’s well worth keeping a pot in the cupboard – nutritional yeast is useful in a wide range of savoury recipes, and is full of goodness too.

Toasted Pine Nuts

Spinach Pesto

Spinach Pesto

Yields4 ServingsPrep Time15 mins

 50 g pine nuts
 70 g fresh spinach
 30 g fresh basil
 100 ml extra virgin olive oil
 2 tbsp lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)
 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
 ½ tsp salt
 3 grinds of black pepper

1

Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan, on a medium-high heat. Stir and turn them constantly until golden brown. It should take about 10 minutes.

2

Add all the ingredients to the blender, and let it run on the lowest setting until the mixture binds together. I like a more rustic home-made texture, but if you prefer it smooth, just leave it running a few seconds longer.

Ingredients

 50 g pine nuts
 70 g fresh spinach
 30 g fresh basil
 100 ml extra virgin olive oil
 2 tbsp lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)
 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
 ½ tsp salt
 3 grinds of black pepper

Directions

1

Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan, on a medium-high heat. Stir and turn them constantly until golden brown. It should take about 10 minutes.

2

Add all the ingredients to the blender, and let it run on the lowest setting until the mixture binds together. I like a more rustic home-made texture, but if you prefer it smooth, just leave it running a few seconds longer.

Spinach Pesto

Storage

The pesto will keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to a week, or it freezes really well.


How to serve

Pesto is great in salads, and goes well with any kind of pasta, noodles or gnocchi. You can warm it gently, but be careful not to over-heat it or the basil wilts. Also olive oil loses its nutritional value when used for cooking.

If I’m using a ready-made batch from the fridge, I usually take it out a little early so it’s at room temperature, then it only needs stirring into the cooked dish to warm it up.

Try it with our Sweet Potato Gnocchi recipe »

Sweet Potato Gnocchi





Have you tried this recipe? How did it go? Got any tips or questions of your own about plant-based pesto? Leave us a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.

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