The word “pesto” comes from the Italian word pestâ, which means to pound or to crush. This makes sense, because the ingredients are crushed and mixed together. Early references to pesto show that it was originally made by crushing garlic, salt, cheese, herbs, vinegar, and oil together into a paste. It’s believed that basil, which is now considered a pesto essential, was added in the mid-19th century.
What we now think of as “traditional pesto” is a paste-like sauce made with basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and cheese, but since the word pesto is actually a generic term for anything that is made by pounding, I think that just about anything goes when making it. I like to mix things up and change out the greens when making pesto. Baby spinach is my favorite green for pesto, but I also like to use arugula or kale. Instead of pine nuts I like to use pistachios, cashews, or walnuts.
This Spinach Pesto is my favorite version of sauce. The nutritional yeast and miso give it a little bit of a cheesy flavor. If I’m in the mood for a creamier pesto, I will use raw cashews rather than pistachios. If I have a hankering for something spicy, I’ll add a pinch of red pepper flakes.
What’s your favorite way to make pesto?
Vegan Spinach Pesto
- 5 ounces baby spinach (about 5 cups)
- 2 ounces basil (about 2 cups)
- ¼ cup pistachios
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon mellow white miso
- 2 garlic cloves
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ cup olive oil
Add the spinach, basil, pistachios, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, miso, garlic, and salt to a food processer fitted with an s-blade, and process until the ingredients are coarsely chopped.
While the processor is still running, add the olive oil through the top opening. Processed until mixed thoroughly, but not a paste. The pesto should be a little chunky.
Some of my favorite recipes that use spinach pesto include:
- Vegan Tomato Tartlets with Spinach Pesto
- Zucchini Noodles with Creamy Spinach Pesto
- Lemon-Rosemary Grilled Tofu Sandwich
- Avocado Toast