DIY: vegan pesto on the cheap

Mister Whiskhands is somewhat of a basil fiend. He’ll fish Thai basil out of the curry to eat, he’ll nibble the trimmings when he tends to the sweet basil outside. The man. Loves. Basil.

Naturally, that means he loves pesto! However, we’re vegan and he’s a teacher… so no cheese and no spendy pine nuts. Don’t worry, I make decent money too, but when you’re new home owners, seeing raw cashews in the bulk bins at $7.99/lb is soothing after seeing pine nuts at $21.99/lb. As noted, he’s been lovingly tending to a potted plant in our backyard which has happily yielded two batches of pesto so far.

First things first, meez uhn plahz, or rather, mise en place. Literally “putting in place,” it’s a high maka maka-sounding French phrase defined by the Culinary Institute of America as “everything in place,” or if you prefer, in very plain English, “get your shit together before you start.”

We started with:
– a generous 1/2 cup of raw cashews, unsoaked
– 1 1/2-2 T nutritional yeast
– 4 cloves garlic, chopped*
– 3 cups of clean, fresh basil
not pictured:
– 2T lemon olive oil + 1/4 cup and 2T olive oil
(I was out of lemon juice, so this was my fix; I did it again without and it was fine. You need half a cup total.)
– about 1 tsp sea salt
– boiling pot of water
– ready to rock food processorFirst, I threw the basil in the food processor with most of the cashews, salt and garlic. I’ll be honest and say while Mister Whiskhands liked it as-is on pasta (uncooked and strong garlic bite) it was a bit much for me and I did better with our cooked pizza rendition. Thus, add or reduce accordingly! Once everything was in, I flipped it on and slowly added the oil. Scrape down the sides before adding the nutritional yeast and last of the cashews. Why two-step cashews? Because they’ll reduce themselves down to a creamy sauce, I like adding them in two steps to retain a little texture.

It should look something like this:

Give it a tastes and adjust seasoning as needed. While you’ve been doing all this food processing, surely you’ve had a big pot of water going, right? Right! Season the water and cook your pasta til al dente. Add to the empty pan off the heat and stir in your hot pasta. Eat. Enjoy. Repeat as necessary or as basil supplies allow.

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