Coming from an Italian household, I am no stranger to pesto. Pesto is a "sauce" with a pasty texture traditionally made from basil, toasted pine nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil. Honestly, I love the traditional pesto sauce. It is AMAZING on freshly made pasta in the summer or mixed with ricotta as a ravioli filling. It's also great on homemade pizza or freshly toasted bread. My grandparents always keep a garden in the summer that includes several types of fresh vegetables and herbs, including basil. Every summer growing up in South Jersey, we would go in their back yard and pick bunches of basil leaves. Then we would have a pesto pasta night, making fresh pasta with my grandmother's pasta machine and homemade pesto to go along with it. Pesto Pasta is one of my ultimate go-to comfort meals!
What does pesto taste like? It's herby, nutty, aromatic, garlicky, slightly sweet from the fresh basil, and salty. In a good pesto, you can taste the fresh parmesan, toasty pine nuts and olive oil - these rich nutty flavors bring out the bright, sweet and summery flavor of fresh basil.
So, what are we making today, you ask? Let's get to it! Although I LOVE cheese, I try not to put it in everything these days (just some things!). My dad adheres to a dairy free and gluten free diet for health reasons, so I tend to adapt my favorite recipes to be dairy free so we can all enjoy them. This was my inspiration for my Vegan Walnut Pesto. I added a bit of water to the sauce to thin it out enough so that it can be used as a finishing sauce on fish or chicken, but can also still be used on pizza and pasta.
I chose to use toasted walnuts just to mix it up a little bit, you can always use the classic toasted pine nut. I always love walnuts for their health benefits - they are a wonderful plant source of Omega 3s. They are also rich in antioxidants and good for gut health, an all around great choice!
To toast the walnuts, I heated them over my cast iron skillet for about 5 minutes until they give off that wonderful nutty smell. This helps to optimize their flavor, making them taste great in the finished pesto.
As far as herbs, I used BOTH Basil and Parsley in this recipe. I think the addition of Parsley adds a nice, fresh, light vibe to the sauce.
Make sure you roast the garlic beforehand, just throw a bulb in the oven with some olive oil. Preheat the oven for 375 and roast for 10-15 minutes. You can always add the garlic in raw, but roasting it makes the flavor so much deeper overall.
If you give this recipe a try, please leave a comment and let me know what you think. I hope you enjoy!