Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Vegan Pesto

I should start off by saying that I love pasta. We have pasta for dinner about once a week and I try to be creative about how I serve it, but unfortunately a lot of pasta dishes are made with cheese. And, Brian doesn't eat cheese. Pasta with sauce is great, and we also do pasta with olive oil and veggies a lot, but we LOVE pesto. Most store bought pesto contains Parmesan cheese and I thought I would just follow a traditional pesto recipe and leave the cheese out. Well guess what? Pesto without Parmesan does not taste good.

Several trials later I came up with my secret ingredient. I was looking for something that was sweet enough to cut out the bitter flavors of basil, garlic and pine nuts, but not alter the taste significantly. And the answer is- roasted red pepper.

Vegan Pesto

1 red pepper
1/2 cup of olive oil (approx.)
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 cloves garlic
2 cups fresh basil
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Slice and quarter the pepper, removing stem and seeds.
  3. Lay pepper on a baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, bake in the oven at 400F for 45 minutes and allow to cool slightly.
  4. While the pepper is 'roasting', roughly dice garlic and wash basil.
  5. Add 1/4 cup of olive oil in a small pan and heat on medium-low.
  6. Add the garlic and pine nuts to the pan and cook in the olive oil until the pine nuts are golden brown and the garlic is lightly browning at the edges, 4-5 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. (I think cooking these ingredients also helps to minimize the bitter flavors.)
  7. When the pepper and garlic/ pine nuts are ready to go, throw them into a food processor along with 1/2 of the basil and the lemon juice. Be sure to add all of the olive oil from the pan that cooked the garlic and pine nuts.
  8. Blend! Add the rest of the basil and, Blend!
  9. Add salt and pepper to taste and additional olive oil to achieve a creamy consistency. 

We used this recipe on pasta, but I've also had it on quinoa and I think it would make a great pizza sauce as well. You could also use roasted garlic instead of cooking it in the oil (see tomorrow's post!). The red pepper does change the coloring, you don't have the same shade of bright green, but I have another version in the works that involves additional green veggies. Stay tuned!

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