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.
Modifying my original recipe, which uses Parmesan cheese:
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)
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.
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.
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.