We have included this recipe as a pretext to share our delicious vegan pesto recipe which we cook on a weekly basis. This pesto is fresh, healthy and vibrant and doesn’t rely on cheese. The classic Italian dish of Pasta Pesto can be made extra special by sprinkling crispy tofu cubes on top to boost the protein and give it a salt-and-pepper crunch. The whole thing is equally good served cold the next day as a pasta salad.
1 x 400g block tofu, well-pressed
1 cup fresh basil
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
½ cup cashew nuts
½ cup almonds
2 tbsps nutritional yeast
Juice 1 lemon
4 cloves of garlic
¼ cup pine nuts
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
250g dried pasta
200g bag fresh baby spinach
1/2 head broccoli cut into mini florets and steamed for 5 mins
1 cup pitted green olives, chopped in half
1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
In a blender or food processor, whizz together the basil (fresh and dried), oregano, cashew nuts, almonds, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, garlic and a good glug of olive oil. Drizzle extra olive oil as required to get the right consistency. If it’s too dry add a splash or 2 of soya or almond milk but not too much as you want the pesto to stick to the pasta. You can add half an avocado here to give the pesto a thicker, silky texture.
Put the pine nuts in a frying pan and dry fry for up to 5 mins. Don’t leave them – you want them golden brown but not burnt and they turn quickly.
Press a block of tofu and cut into small cubes. Fry the cubes in a tablespoon of olive oil till crispy and grind in some pepper and sea salt as it is frying.
Cook your pasta of choice according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Drain, return to the saucepan and add the pesto. Mix well to completely coat the pasta and then add green olives, fresh spinach leaves and the cooked broccoli. Add a splash of tamari and salt and pepper to taste. If you like a bit of heat, add a tsp chilli flakes and mix in well. Transfer into bowls and sprinkle the tofu cubes on top. Serves 4 (or 2 with enough for a big salad the next day).