This vegan pasta al pesto is ready in 20 minutes and is a perfect and simple Italian dish. The homemade basil pesto is served with linguine pasta resulting in a classic pasta recipe that packs a punch of flavor with fresh basil, crunchy pine nuts, and garlic.
- 1. The origins of pasta al pesto
- 2. Basil pesto with linguine pasta
- 3. Why you will love this pasta recipe
- 4. Ingredients
- 7. How to make Pasta Al Pesto (step-by-step with photos)
- 5. Variations
- 6. Substitutions
- 8. Expert Tips
- 9. How to store leftover pesto
- 10. Serving suggestions
- 11. Recipe FAQ
- 12. Pasta Al Pesto Recipe
THE ORIGINS OF PASTA AL PESTO
Pasta al Pesto is a renowned dish with its roots entrenched in Italy’s Liguria region, where it has been relished for centuries. The sauce, made with fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, and olive oil, is the epitome of traditional Italian cuisine. The name “pesto” draws its origin from the Genoese word “to pound” or “to crush,” referring to the age-old method of pounding ingredients in a mortar and pestle.
This classic recipe is widely appreciated globally, especially in Italian restaurants. Its versatility is unmatched, serving as a sumptuous main course, a delectable side dish, or a refreshing cold pasta salad.
With just a few basic ingredients and mere 20 minutes, this dish is an ideal pick for both seasoned chefs and cooking enthusiasts. This vegan version of the dish swaps out traditional ingredients like Parmesan cheese for vegan alternatives like nutritional yeast, making it an equally delightful option.
BASIL PESTO WITH LINGUINE PASTA
Pasta al Pesto is usually made with linguine, a pasta with a flat and narrow appearance reminiscent of spaghetti. The name “linguine” is derived from the Italian term for “little tongues,” fittingly describing its shape. Linguine is a favored pasta in Italian cuisine and is widely recognized for its unique form. If you want to read more on this pasta variety, I can recommend this article.
WHY YOU WILL LOVE THIS PASTA RECIPE
Besides the delicious flavors and a fool-proof recipe, you will love this pasta because:
- It makes a perfect dish bursting with flavor for a quick weeknight dinner or as a dish to impress at a dinner party.
- All you need is a blender or food processor and a few minutes to cook the pasta, and it’s ready to be served in 20 minutes.
- A fool-proof and easy recipe made with fresh ingredients.
- Vegan or not? Everyone will love this dish.
- If you wish, you can make this dish gluten-free.
The ingredients for Pasta al Pesto are simple, such as basil, garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil. Here’s a more detailed look at each ingredient:
Linguine is a pasta variation that is easy to find in any supermarket. Unlike spaghetti, linguine has a flat, wider shape and it is designed to hold onto every delicious drop of pesto. And for those who are gluten-free or have sensitivities, don’t worry – you can still enjoy this classic dish made with alternative flours like corn, rice, or wheat.
Pine nuts are traditionally used in pesto and add a slightly crunchy texture and a rich, nutty flavor to the dish.
Fresh basil leaves
Regular sweet basil is a key ingredient in traditional pesto and provides a fresh, herby flavor. Not to be confused with Thai basil, which has a licorice/anise flavor and is commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine. Fresh basil is essential to the flavor of Pasta al Pesto. Look for bright green leaves that are fragrant and free of wilting or brown spots.
Garlic adds a nice pungent aroma and a slightly spicy taste to the dish. To avoid larger pieces of garlic in the pesto, it is best to use chopped garlic.
Nutritional yeast is vegan and adds a savory, cheesy flavor to the dish, and it serves as a replacement for Parmesan cheese used in basil pesto.
High-quality olive oil
Olive oil binds the ingredients together and creates a smooth and creamy texture for the pesto. Use high-quality extra-virgin olive oil for the best taste.
Salt & pepper
Salt is used to bring out the flavors of the other ingredients, while pepper adds a nice spiciness and a little bit of heat.
Vegan Parmesan cheese (optional)
Vegan Parmesan cheese is used as a dairy-free alternative to traditional Parmesan cheese. It adds saltiness and creaminess to the dish. This is an optional ingredient, so if you prefer, you can leave it out or substitute it with more nutritional yeast.
HOW TO MAKE PASTA AL PESTO (STEP-BY-STEP WITH PHOTOS)
This pasta with basil pesto is a simple and delicious dish that’s perfect for any night of the week. Follow the below step-by-step instructions, and enjoy the best Pasta Al Pesto.
While this dish is traditionally made with a mortar and pestle to pound the ingredients, we are going to make things easier by using a food processor.
Step 1 – cook the pasta
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until it is al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water.
Step 2– drain the pasta
Drain the pasta and set it aside (you can use the same pot).
Step 3 – make the basil pesto
While the pasta is cooking, make the pesto. Start by gently roasting the pine nuts.
Next, to a food processor, add the fresh basil.
Followed by the other ingredients: basil, garlic, pine nuts, nutritional yeast, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
In a food processor, mix until smooth and slowly add the olive oil.
If the pesto is too thick, add a little pasta water to thin it out.
It should be smooth with a bit of texture.
Combine the cooked pasta and the basil pesto in a large bowl or pot.
Toss until the pasta is evenly coated. Add 1-2 tablespoons of the pasta water if the pesto is too dry.
Serve and enjoy! Garnish the pasta with basil leaves and nutritional yeast, if desired.
For the full recipe with the exact quantities of all the ingredients, see the recipe card.
This pasta recipe is easy to make and scrumptious, but there are some possible variations and substitutions if you don’t have all ingredients at hand or if you want to make this pasta dish even more exciting.
This pasta recipe doesn’t have to be limited to just one type of pasta. Try using spaghetti, fettuccine, or penne for a change.
Basil is a classic ingredient for this pasta recipe, but you can switch it up and try a different herb for a non-basil pesto. Herbs with similar flavors are oregano, parsley, mint, sage, or tarragon. But greens like baby spinach or kale are also an option to experiment with.
Pine nuts are costly. So, feel free to substitute those with roasted almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, cashews, pistachios, or blanched almonds.
Spice it up
Add red pepper flakes or more garlic to your pasta sauce if you like a little punch.
To make it creamier, you can add vegan cream cheese or warm water-soaked and drained cashews to the food processor.
Customizing this Pasta Al Pesto recipe to cater to your tastes and dietary needs is effortless. Here are a few flexible options to consider:
Traditionally served with linguine, try spaghetti, penne, fettuccine, and tagliatelle, or go gluten-free with brown rice or quinoa pasta or low-carb with zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash. Alternatively, Trenette, a pasta variety between linguine and fettuccine, is also an option but may be hard to find.
If fresh basil is unavailable, fresh mint or oregano can be used.
For a nut-free version, use pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, or opt for a more economical option with walnuts, cashews, or almonds.
Olive oil can be swapped for avocado oil for a distinct flavor.
Vegan feta crumbles can replace vegan Parmesan cheese.
If garlic isn’t your thing, minced shallot or onion can be used instead.
Remember, altering ingredients will result in variations in the dish’s flavor profile.
These tips will guarantee the perfect plate of paste every time:
The consistency of the pesto sauce is crucial. It should maintain a slightly coarse texture, not overly smooth like a smoothie. Over-processing the ingredients can lead to a too smooth texture and even diminish the flavor of the basil.
Furthermore, to preserve the unique basil flavor, do not heat the pesto either, just mix it with freshly cooked, hot pasta.
To achieve maximum flavor, use only the freshest basil leaves without brown spots and top-quality extra virgin olive oil.
Al dente pasta
Cook the pasta until tender (al dente). Overcooking the pasta can result in a mushy texture, so be mindful not to overdo it.
To avoid clumps of garlic in your pesto, mince it before adding it to the food processor. Experiment with the amount of garlic by adjusting to your preferred taste – more for a garlicky flavor, less for a sweeter taste.
Toast the pine nuts
Toasting the pine nuts before adding them to the pesto elevates the nutty flavor of the sauce.
The pasta cooking water is rich in starch, making it a great ingredient to thicken the pesto. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining, and add it to the food processor with the pesto.
Mix the pesto until it is smooth and creamy, then spoon it over warm pasta for a well-coated, evenly absorbed flavor.
Double or triple the recipe to make a larger batch, perfect for meal prep or serving a crowd.
HOW TO STORE LEFTOVER PESTO
To store leftover homemade pesto, transfer it to an airtight container or jar with a tight-fitting lid. Place a layer of plastic wrap or wax paper directly on top of the pesto to prevent oxidation and browning. Moreover, to further protect it from air exposure, fill any extra space in the container with olive oil.
Pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 7 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months if not used within that time.
Here are a few ideas on how to serve this paste recipe, but feel free to get creative and come up with your own unique serving suggestions.
Serve the pasta as a main dish with a side salad or roasted vegetables.
You can serve the pasta as a side dish to a protein such as grilled tofu or tempeh.
Cold pasta salad
Let the pasta cool down before mixing it with the pesto, and serve it cold as a pasta salad.
Mix the pasta with some extra sauce and some veggies, then bake it in the oven.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
I don’t have a food processor. Can I use a blender?
Although a blender may not produce the same coarse and smooth texture as a food processor, it can still be used to make pesto. Here are some tips to help you make pesto in a blender:
- Mince the garlic to avoid garlic chunks in your pesto.
- Adding the oil gradually while blending the ingredients will help create a smoother texture.
- Stop the blender frequently to scrape down the sides.
- Use the pulse function on the blender to chop the ingredients rather than continuously blending, as this can create a too smoothie-like texture.
- Consider using a smaller blender jar.
My pesto tastes boring. How can I enhance the flavors?
There are a few ways you can enhance the flavors of your pesto.
- Add more salt or Parmesan cheese. Salt enhances the flavors in the pesto, and Parmesan cheese provides a creamy and salty flavor.
- Roasting the garlic before adding it to the pesto creates a sweeter and milder flavor.
- Add freshly squeezed lemon juice. Adding a squeeze to the pesto can brighten its flavors and add a fresh twist.
- Add more basil.
Furthermore, it’s best to try these suggestions one at a time and taste the pesto in between adjustments until you reach your desired flavor.
Can I make this recipe nut-free?
Yes, if you are allergic to nuts, you can use sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds as a replacement for pine nuts.
Can I make the pesto a bit creamier?
You can add some soaked cashews or vegan cream cheese to the food processor with the other ingredients to make it creamier.
Is it possible to use dried basil instead of fresh basil?
Fresh basil is best for this recipe. While I don’t recommend using dried basil, consider using another fresh herb or green for a unique twist on this recipe, such as spinach.
Are you craving more easy (pasta) recipes?
Pasta Al Pesto RecipePrint
Pasta Al Pesto (Linguine With Basil Pesto)
- Prep Time: 5
- Cook Time: 15
- Total Time: 20
- Yield: 2–3 servings 1x
- Category: main dish, side
- Method: food processor
- Cuisine: Italian
- Diet: Vegan
Pasta Al Pesto with homemade basil pesto is a classic Italian dish combining fresh basil, roasted pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, and nutritional yeast with al dente cooked linguine paste.
- 7 oz. (200 gr) linguine pasta
- 1 tsp salt (to boil the linguine with)
- ~ ½ cup (60 gr) pine nuts
- 2 cups (45 gr) loosely packed fresh basil leaves + a few leaves for serving
- 1 clove of garlic, minced (add more if you like a garlicky flavor)
- 2 tbsp (18 gr) nutritional yeast
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- ~ 1 1/4 tbsp (20 gr) vegan Parmesan cheese (optional)
- 6 tbsp (90 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- Bring a large pot of water with salt to a boil. Cook the linguine according to the package instructions until it is al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water.
- Drain the pasta and set it aside (you can return it to the same pot).
- Add the pine nuts to a dry pan and roast until most of the pine nuts turn brown. Keep an eye on the pan, as pine nuts tend to burn quickly. Give the pan a shake often to prevent the pine nuts from burning.
- While the pasta is cooking, make the pesto. In a food processor, pulse together basil, garlic, pine nuts, nutritional yeast, vegan Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper until it is semi-smooth. Blend the ingredients until they are well combined, and slowly add the olive oil.
- If the pesto is too thick and dry, add a little pasta water to thin it out. It should be smooth with a bit of texture.
- Add the pesto to the pot with cooked linguine and toss until the pasta is evenly coated. If the pasta seems dry, add a little of the reserved pasta water, a tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.
- Taste the pesto before serving and adjust the seasoning according to your taste. You may need to add more salt or pepper to enhance the flavors.
- Serve the pesto pasta immediately, garnished with basil leaves, nutritional yeast (or vegan Parmesan cheese), and a sprinkle of black pepper, if desired.
Store pesto in an airtight container or jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add plastic wrap on top and fill extra space with olive oil. Keep in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
If you are not going to use it within that time, consider freezing it in ice cube trays or small containers for up to 3 months.
Italian guidelines recommend 100 grams (3-1/2 ounces) or less of uncooked/dried pasta or less for 1 serving per person.
Don’t over-process the pesto
Keep pesto slightly coarse for a bold basil flavor. Over-processing can heat it and weaken the flavors. So, avoid excessive blending.
Crush the garlic when adding to the food processor to avoid clumps of garlic in your pesto.
Toast the pine nuts
Enhance the flavor of your pesto sauce by toasting pine nuts.
Combine pesto with warm, freshly cooked al dente pasta. Cold pasta becomes hard and makes mixing with pesto more difficult.
- Serving Size: 2-3
- Calories: 974
- Sugar: 2.7g
- Fat: 63.4g
- Carbohydrates: 84.6g
- Fiber: 8.4g
- Protein: 22.2g
Keywords: italian, pasta, pesto
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