Updated: Jul 14, 2019
Vegans can have their pesto and eat it too! It just takes one little swap.
My boyfriend, John, says he would eat this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if he could. That's how good it is!
Traditional pesto is made from 5 ingredients: pine nuts, basil, olive oil, garlic, and parmesan cheese. The only swap I made to make this a vegan dish was switching the parmesan for nutritional yeast.
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast (activated yeast is used in bread or beer making) that has a slightly nutty, cheesy flavor.
It doesn't taste exactly like cheese, but it helps create that umami complexity in a dish. I love to whisk it into sauces or even just sprinkle it over roasted veggies.
The best part of nutritional yeast is its nutritional value. 1 Tbsp contains 2 g of high value protein, and 3 Tbsp has more protein than an egg! Nutritional yeast is also a wonderful source of B vitamins, especially B12. In fact, it's one of the only vegan foods that naturally contains B12. It is also rich in trace minerals such as zinc and selenium.
Meanwhile, nutritional yeast is low calorie and free of oils, sugar, or gluten.
The other star of this dish is the type of pasta I use. It's made from chickpea flour and pea protein. I know, it sounds strange, but trust me there's nothing weird about the flavor! It tastes just like traditional pasta. The only difference is the texture - it's a little more al dente than wheat pasta. But hey, I prefer that!
Pasta made from chickpeas and lentils is gaining popularity because it's naturally gluten-free (and holds up much better than traditional GF pasta) while it's also PACKED with protein. One respectable serving has a whopping 25 g of protein! All from plants.
To be honest, I don't eat any other type of pasta anymore. Why would I when this kind tastes fabulous, gives me a protein boost, and is naturally low on the glycemic index? I urge you to try it. My preferred brand is Banza, and I'm not being paid to say that ;) I genuinely love their product.
VEGAN PESTO PASTA
TOTAL TIME: 15 minutes
SERVINGS: 3 MAINS, 5 SIDES
· 1 box of Banza pasta
· ½ cup pine nuts
· 1 cup fresh basil
· 4 Tbsp nutritional yeast
· 3 small cloves garlic, or 2 small ones
· ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (cold pressed)
· Salt and pepper to taste
· 1/3 can of roasted red peppers
1. Get a large pot of water boiling. Add the Banza pasta and set a timer for 6 minutes. When the timer goes off, taste and see if the texture is to your liking. It will be a little al dente. If you like it softer, allow it to cook longer, but keep an eye on it because it will go soggy quickly.
2. Drain the pasta and set aside.
3. Warm a dry saute pan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts to the pan and toast them until they're golden and fragrant. Don't walk away from the stove! They'll burn quickly.
4. When the pine nuts are toasted, add them to a food processor. Add the basil, garlic, nutritional yeast, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
*Note: Sometimes I like to add a little squeeze of lemon to brighten the pesto if it needs it.
5. Chop the roasted red peppers into bite size pieces.
6. Toss the pesto with the cooked pasta and roasted red peppers. Serve while warm!
Mikka Knapp, RDN, LDN, CLT