The basil is high and the cat fish are jumpin! Probably. If you’re like me, you could eat fresh herbs out of the garden all day long. Deciding how to incorporate them into every single meal is the real question. Here’s the best way to use that surplus of fragrant basil.
Also, before we begin, be forewarned that this is a FAMILY sized amount of pesto and pasta. If you don’t think you can or should consume enough for several people, feel free to cut this recipe in half. It’s just me and my husband, but I make enough to feed 4-5 people because I’m obsessed with cold pesto pasta. I’m leftover queen. It’s like you made yourself a cold yummy refreshing summer pasta salad too, but it’s no extra work.
So for me, pesto is anything with basil, a fatty nut, and greenery. A lot of chefs use exclusively basil with pine nuts and a firm cheese, but I’ve been known to get funky with my greenery and nuts. I hate food waste and love cooking seasonally. So in the fall after I harvest my carrots, I make a carrot top pesto with walnuts rather than pine nuts. In spring when my cold hardy veggies are poking through the earth, you can bet it’s a kale and cashew pesto. Catch my drift? This is kind of an everything but the kitchen sink mash up since I use a lot of my fresh basil out of the herb garden, but I also threw in a lot of the greens that were hanging out in my fridge – collards and spinach. And it’s delicious every time, so feel free to flex your creative muscle or use up some of that bulk kale you thought you were going to juice.
You’re going to need a food processor or blender for this one.
3.5 cups of raw spinach
10 garlic cloves (alter depending on your taste preference)
1/3 cup raw basil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
5 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1/3 cup raw cashews
Basically just dump all of this into a high speed blender or food processor and let that baby go. That’s it. I also had a smidgeon of raw cauliflower and collard greens laying around, so I tossed them in. See what I mean bout how versatile pesto can be? You can add any greens or other sneaky veggies you feel like (peas, broccoli, etc.). This pesto is super potent, though, thanks to the raw basil and garlic, so don’t think you can just mix this in at the end! If you want to do that, roast your garlic in the toaster oven or sautee on high heat in a pan for a few minutes first. Ever have raw garlic? It makes your nose hairs stand up.
Boil a package of pasta according to the directions on the container. In the last minute or so, you’re going to want to drain off most but not all of the water and add the pasta and water together to your sauteed veggie pot. Here are the details for the veggies I included. Remember, I’m obsessed with veggies and eat every single fitting one in every dish, so maybe this comes off as excessive for you haha. If that’s the case, I’d stick with the onions and sundried tomatoes, and maybe also the peas.
1 red onion, diced
1 orange (or any color) bell pepper, chopped
1 cup baby button mushrooms, cut in half
1/2 cup purple kale, chopped
1/2 cup collard greens, chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
See, I told you I go hard. Sautee your onions in a pan with 2 tbsp olive oil. As these start to caramelize, add in your bell pepper and mushrooms. These three should be in the pan another 5-7 minutes after the onion started to caramelize. You can toss your sun dried tomatoes in at any point. Sprinkle sea salt and fresh cracked pepper on this with a little onion powder, about 14 tsp. Normally, I’d be adding a ton of spices to a veggie sautee base, but since this pesto is so strong, you won’t need much else. Finally, toss in your fresh tomatoes, greens, and peas. This is the point to add in your pesto sauce. If you don’t heat it up, the garlic will be way to strong and it’ll be almost inedible. If you need a little more olive oil to keep your pesto from sticking to the pan, that won’t hurt, you can add in a few more teaspoons.
As everything is cooking down, drain your pasta, saving about 1/4-1/2 cup of starchy water from the pot. Dump into your giant pot with the veggies and pesto and mix evenly. I served this with vegan chickenless tenders from Trader Joe’s, topped it with vegan parmesan cheese from Violife, pine nuts, and a little more salt and pepper because you can never have enough.