Pesto pesto pesto! It’s so easy to make and yet it’s so delicious. I eat it by itself with carrot and cucumber sticks, as a sauce for pasta, as a condiment for risotto or soups… It gives everything an amazing freshness as well as creaminess, from the nuts. The basic recipe is basil, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese, but really you can use different nuts and also different herby leaves to get different flavours.
I had a tray of rocket leaves I needed to use, and to balance it out I used some basil because rocket on its own is very peppery. Since pine nuts are really expensive, I decided to go for cashew nuts which makes it so creamy! Then, to make it vegan friendly (and also less expensive), I used nutritional yeast, which is a health supplement that has a cheesy flavour, which makes it a vegan go-to. You can use parmesan cheese if you absolutely prefer, but note that it will make the fat content much higher. Besides some olive oil and salt for taste, all you need is a food processor and you’ll be ready to go (you could even do it in the blender, I think, but it takes a lot of stirring around).
Rocket, as part of the same family as kale, and also by virtue of being a dark green leaf, is packed with nutrients – vitamins A, C, loads of vitamin K (100g gives you 90% of your recommended daily intake) and some iron too. Cashew nuts not only has a lower fat content than other nuts, the fats are mostly good-for-your-heart monounsaturated fats which is similar to those found in olive oil. Nutritional yeast is a complete protein, has selenium and potassium, and fortified nutritional yeast provides vitamin B12 which is a vitamin vegans and vegetarians don’t normally get in their diet. Do I need to convince you anymore of how good for you this yumminess is?
- 1 packet rocket leaves (roughly two handfuls)
- 1 packet basil leaves (roughly two handfuls)
- 150g cashew nuts
- 4 - 5 tablespoons olive oil (4 for a dip, 5 for pasta)
- 4 tablespoons nutritional yeast powder (2 tablespoons for flakes, as I find those taste stronger than the powdered one)
- Salt, to taste
- Pick the basil leaves off the stems. Wash and dry the leaves, then place the leaves and cashew nuts in the food processor and blitz till a paste forms.
- Add the nutritional yeast and salt, blitz, then while the motor is running pour in the olive oil through the nozzle. Taste and add more salt if needed.
- Serve with vegetable sticks, stir into freshly cooked pasta or risotto. Keeps in the fridge for about three days, best to top up with a hint more oil in the jar to “preserve”.