Trying Pesto for the First Time
I didn’t grow up eating adventurously, so I didn’t try pesto until I was in my 20s. In fact, I don’t think I had even heard of it until I was in my 20s. There was a small Italian place down the street that made fresh pasta and sauces, and after I discovered it, I began eating there often. I was in the early days of my vegetarianism, and finding restaurants that had food I could chose from wasn’t easy, but their menu had tons of vegetarian options.
After having a few visits where I had ordered my standard ravioli with tomato sauce, I began to branch out and try different types of pastas and sauces. Pesto sounded good, so I why not try it? After just a few bites, I was hooked. Pesto quickly became my sauce of choice for pasta.
Traditional pesto is made with basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese. It originated in Genoa, Italy, and the word “pesto” comes from the Italian word pestare, which means “to pound or crush.” Originally, the ingredients were crushed together with a mortar and pestle.
These days, it’s much easier to make pesto in a food processor than with a mortar and pestle. It whips up easily in a matter of minutes.
While I know that basil is traditional, I like to play with the leafy greens that I use to make it. I love to use kale, spinach, and even broccoli. One of my favorite greens for pesto is arugula.
In this vegan Arugula Pesto recipe, I use nutritional yeast to mimic the cheese that traditional recipes call for. I’ve stuck with traditional pine nuts, but I have been known to mix it up and use pistachios or even pumpkin seeds.
I will admit that although I include measurements here, I often just grab handfuls of greens and add them to the food processor. I then add the nutritional yeast, nuts, and lemon juice to taste, so you don’t really need to be a stickler for amounts when making this.
I do like to top my pasta with vegan arugula pesto, but I also like to spread it on pizzas add to grilled tofu sandwiches. It’s great as a spread on bread, too.
Vegan Arugula Pesto
- 2 cups fresh basil, tightly packed
- 2 cups arugula, tightly packed
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Combine the basil, arugula, pine nuts, garlic, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and salt in a food processor until finely chopped and mixed together. With the processor running, add the olive oil and continue processing until thoroughly combined.