Looking for an easy dish to bring to a BBQ this weekend?  A pasta pesto salad will travel perfectly!

I could sleep in a bed of fresh basil leaves.  I can never get enough of it.. added to pasta, on top of pizza, mixed into salad.. wherever, however, whenever.  Yet, I was always wary of pesto, as I wasn’t quite sure what was in it.  Once I had my own over-flowing basil plants, I was ready to find out.  Basil, olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts/walnuts… what’s not to love?

And then, we became dairy free.  As with so many other dishes made with dairy, we faltered.  There are cheese substitutes, usually soy-based, and in my opinion, not palatable.  Enter nutritional yeast, a really, really special alternative to Parmesan cheese.  Nutritional yeast flakes, found in your health food store, or online, are very cool.  They taste kinda cheesy, kinda nutty, and salty.  A sprinkle on popcorn, over pasta, or in place of cheese in many recipes… just, wow.  It can be used sparingly as it packs quite a flavor punch, so whenever using it, I always use less and add more if necessary.

Pesto

Pesto

Modifying my original recipe, which uses Parmesan cheese:

Ingredients:
2 c. basil leaves, packed
1/4 c. chopped nuts or seeds (pine nuts or walnuts; to try out nut-free, we used sunflower seeds)
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/8-1/4 c. nutritional yeast (to taste)

Directions:
Place basil leaves and nuts into food processor bowl, and pulse until coarsely chopped.  Add garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and 1/8 c. of the nutritional yeast and pulse until smooth.  Taste, and add additional nutritional yeast if desired.

Pesto in progress

Normally we make it with pine nuts or walnuts.  In order to have a nut-free option to share, we tried sunflower seeds.  It took a little longer to process and at first I thought it wasn’t going to work, but I kept pulsing away.  Get it to a nice smooth paste so the seeds can no longer be seen; pausing to push down with a rubber spatula before pulsing further.  Wow.  It was amazing, maybe even better than with nuts!  This can be enjoyed over a lb. of warm pasta, on pizza, in a sandwich, rolled in a chicken breast, or just about anywhere you can imagine.

Pesto in progress 2

Share your family’s favorite uses for basil below.  To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook. Peruse past blogs and keep current with new blogs at Stephanie.hvparent.com.

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