My list of vegan recipes is slowly growing longer! This dish is based on a favorite of my husband’s from one of our trips to Sicily. Nuts of all kinds are used in Sicilian cooking, and the basil pesto that we are used to here is just one of the many variations that Sicilians make. If you can’t find pine nuts, or if they are too expensive (usually about $20 per pound) you can substitute walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, or even a couple of teaspoons of tahini. I used penne for this dish, but fusilli (corkscrew) would be more traditional, and would also hold more of that delicious sauce! If you prefer to use dairy, just swap out the vegan butter, cheese, and milk for the real thing.
- 1/2 C. sun dried tomatoes packed in oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced, one for pesto, two for finished sauce
- 2 C. fresh basil leaves, packed, reserve a couple of leaves for garnish
- 1/4 C. pine nuts (or other nuts, see above)
- 1/4 C. grated vegan parmesan (or a T. of nutritional yeast)
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- 1/2 C. good quality olive oil
- 1/4-1/2 t. salt (taste after adding 1/4 t.)
- 1/4 t. pepper
- 3 T. vegan butter such as Earth Balance
- 1 C. unsweetened, unflavored nut milk, I like to use cashew milk for cooking since I think it’s the least sweet.
- 2 t. cornstarch
- 1 lb. pasta, cooked according to the package directions. Reserve 1/4 C. of pasta water.
- Basil, vegan parm, and pine nuts for garnish
Using a food processor, pulse together the tomatoes, basil, one clove of garlic, the pine nuts, the parmesan, the zest and juice of the lemon, the olive oil, and the salt and pepper. Pulse to create a semi-smooth paste. If it’s too thick you can add a little drizzle more of oil. Taste for saltiness and add a little more if needed.
In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add the remaining two cloves of garlic. Cook the garlic for about one minute. Mix the cornstarch with about 1/4 C. of the nut milk to make a smooth slurry. Pour the slurry into the butter and garlic and mix until smooth. Scrape the pesto into the skillet and stir to combine. Whisk in the remaining nut milk until smooth. Bring to a simmer. Continue to stir as the mixture thickens. Toss the sauce with the cooked and drained pasta. Garnish with some chopped, fresh basil, and some of the nuts. Serve with more parmesan on the side.