By Jennifer Provenza at Good Food From The Heart
Whole foods plant based, oil free, sugar free, soy free, gluten free, (for nut free omit pine nuts)
This oil free vegan pesto recipe has creamy avocado, umami sundried tomato, salty olives, and tangy lemon juice combine to create a medley of flavors you will want to experience again and again!
Me and Pasta
I am going to be honest with you. I am never not in the mood for pasta. And pasta with pesto is my favorite kind! I’m Italian (like 100 percent Italian on both sides), so I grew up eating a LOT of pasta. The summer before I got pregnant with M, Ian and I took a detour from a work trip to France and spent a week in Italy. We visited Venice during the biennale (an every other year event that showcases art displays from around the world all over the city). We also went to Florence and Fiesole. My favorite thing about Italy (besides the beautiful views and the art and the incredible coffee, I mean, oh my GOD the coffee was just so good!) was the pasta. I loved the fact that they eat pasta with every meal as a starter course. I could definitely, definitely eat pasta with every meal. But, you know, I probably shouldn’t. Not that that stops me from trying!
I do make sure to stick to whole grain pasta, which, truth be told, I like better than regular because it fills me up more. And, lately, we’ve been eating a lot of chickpea pasta, which has the advantage of having tons of protein per serving.
This oil free vegan pesto pasta recipe is based on a dish served by my grandmother. I ate it regularly growing up and it was always one of my favorites! My grandma’s recipe used fresh tomatoes, but I found over the years that I prefer sundried. I love the tangy taste it provides as well as the festive deep red and green look of the prepared dish. It works great with cherry tomatoes too though!
I also found that I preferred the taste of the recipe when made with homemade pesto (preferably with basil fresh from my garden). When I began eating plant based, I modified it by using nutritional yeast instead of the cheese and it was still great. Unfortunately, the traditional pesto recipe (as well as the plant based version) was full of oil. I knew there had to be a healthier way to make it, but the versions I tried (some using vegetable broth or other substitutes) just didn’t work for me. Then, after trying a different pasta that used avocado in the sauce, I had the idea to simply substitute a whole avocado for the oil. Talk about a whole food! Avocado is full of healthy fats and is not refined like oil. And, this recipe is significantly less caloric than the original, especially when you consider that the vegetables would normally be sauteed in a bunch more oil.
Feel free to experiment and add different veggies. Zucchini would be nice, for example. Use 8 ounces of pasta for a higher sauce to pasta ratio (you can even serve it over a bed of arugula or other lettuce). 12 ounces will give you a little less sauce for your pasta, but you can always double the sauce recipe and freeze any extra.
Any pasta will work for this recipe. I usually use either brown rice pasta or chickpea pasta. The chickpea version even eliminates the grain, so you are literally eating beans and vegetables for dinner. What could be healthier than that?! (I love Banza chickpea pasta). More importantly, however, this dish is delicious. None of the flavor is compromised. All you miss is that heavy, stuffed feeling after a fatty meal.
This is a seriously simple vegan pesto pasta recipe to make. Simply saute garlic in water or broth and add the vegetables and lemon juice. Fresh lemon juice is a must for this recipe.
Meanwhile, put all the pesto ingredients into a food processor and process until it makes a lovely green paste. Pro tip: you can also use this pesto on sandwiches, toast, potatoes, soup. Really anywhere you want a beautiful pop of fresh basil flavor.
After cooking the pasta to al dente, simply add the pesto and the sauteed veggies, top with So Good It’s Nuts Parmesan (and/or additional basil) and eat.
This is a regular in my repertoire and for good reason. When I eat it, I’m reminded of being back in Italy. It is also absolutely delicious served cold as a pasta salad.
Oil Free Vegan Pesto
- Non Stick Pan
- Food Processor
- 8-12 ounces whole grain or chickpea pasta
For the Pesto
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1 ripe avocado sliced
- 1/4 cup pine nuts toasted
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest grated
For Vegetable Topping
- 2-4 cloves garlic crushed
- 1/4 cup vegetable broth or water
- 1 can artichoke hearts diced
- 1/2 cup black olives diced
- 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes diced
- juice of one lemon
- So Good It's Nuts "Parmesan" Topping
- additional basil sliced
- toasted and salted whole grain breadcrumbs
- If you bought roasted pine nuts, skip this step. Otherwise, toast the pine nuts in a non stick pan over medium heat until they turn a golden brown, about five minutes.
- To make the pesto, add the basil, avocado, pine nuts, nutritional yeast, salt and lemon zest to a food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.
- Fill a large pot ⅔ of the way with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta. Cook according to package directions.
- While the pasta is cooking, cook the garlic over medium heat in a non stick pan. Use about ¼ cup of water or vegetable broth to keep the garlic from sticking. Add more as needed. When garlic is translucent, add the artichoke hearts, black olives, sundried tomatoes, and lemon juice. Cook until warmed through. Set aside.
- When the pasta is al dente, drain it and add the pesto sauce. Stir to make sure all the pasta is covered in sauce. Add the vegetables and serve.
- Great toppings for this pasta are toasted and salted whole grain breadcrumbs, more sliced basil, or my So Good It’s Nuts "Parmesan" topping.
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