Vegan Pesto (Oil Free)

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Pesto! A crowd favourite. I remember eating pesto quite often as a child. It was a very easy dinner for my mother between all of her usual drops and collects among the four of us. All you have to do is buy your tub of pesto from the shop, and dollop it into your pasta. Sounds good, right? Wrong! Most store-bought pesto sauces contain milk or cheese powder and are laden with oils. Olive oil is in fact one of the top ingredients in most store-bought pesto sauces.

With the high levels of oils present, these sauces are very calorically dense. In discovering this, I wanted to experiment with different ways to experience that same beautiful basil flavour – by healthier means! Instead of using olive oil, I have opted for avocado which is a natural, unsaturated source of fat. The use of avocado also provides a much fresher and lighter flavour and texture. Not to mention the fact that avocado’s have the highest protein and lowest sugar level of all fruits! This folate-rich food is a super alternative to the usual saturated fat addition of olive oil.

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Pesto is typically produced by blending pine nuts with the other ingredients, but I have opted for cashew nuts for this recipe – as I find that they appear to be more readily available and they tend to be much cheaper than pine nuts. They also provide a distinct nutty undertone to the flavour which other pesto sauces seem to lack.

This pesto is so quick and easy to achieve. I usually opt for this as a dinner option if I am in a rush, or if I don’t really feel like making a dinner. All you have to do is; Make the sauce, cook some pasta, and chop some baby tomatoes. Add the three components together to create the perfect vegan meal. My boyfriend loves it when I swap out his usual sandwich filler – guacamole, for this oil-free pesto! It’s also delicious served over my home-made gnocchi with chopped grilled-peppers, tomatoes and olives. Just delicious!

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Ingredients:

  • 40 – 50 grams of fresh basil
  • 1/2 a ripe avocado
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/4 cup of cashew nuts
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup of water

Method:

  • Place all ingredients besides from the water into the food processor and blend on high.
  • Ensure that the mixture is blending evenly and adjust the salt, pepper and garlic to your own taste.
  • While the processor is running and the pesto is well mixed – begin adding the water bit-by-bit.
  • Add more or less water depending on your own desired consistency.
  • Once the mixture is ready, use a spatula to transfer it to an air tight container.
  • Enjoy this pesto served over gnocchi (as pictures), wholewheat pasta, or even as a sandwich filling.

Notes:

  • Be very careful with the garlic! An over-powering garlic flavour kills the much-desired basil taste.
  • This sauce can last in the fridge for up to 3 days, however I recommend consuming it within 1-2 days.

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