Vegan Pesto Brings Everyone Together

Aren’t the best recipes spur of the moment? And better still when they’re fast, easy and crowd-pleasing…

It’s a challenge cooking meals for vegan and omnivores, those with dietary restrictions, and tastebuds that are less than adventurous–especially when it comes to trying “healthy” plant-based foods. And you can forgeddabout raw foods.

With dinnertime fast approaching, I took inventory of what we had in the house:

  • Fragrance of fresh basil, a gift from a friend’s garden, was calling to be used every time the refrigerator was opened
  • A large head of cauliflower crowded the drawer
  • A container of baby spinach leaves would be a shame not to use it while fresh, too

I decided to make a basil spinach pesto with cauliflower–withholding the miso or nutritional yeast I usually include–to allow my mother and aunt to add grated cheese at the table. I would opt for parmesan sprinkles–a blend of sesame seeds and nutritional yeast–inspired by Jo Stepaniak’s “Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook”.

Rather than sauteing cauliflower separately, I added it with the pasta water (though boiling is not optimal for nutrition), and the consistency was just right after 7-8 minutes. At least, it saves time, and pots to clean.

Fast and Flexible Vegan Pesto Recipe


1 large bunch of basil (washed and stemmed)

3 handfuls of baby spinach leaves (washed and dried)

1/4 c pine nuts (walnuts or other nuts will work)

1 T minced garlic (I used jarred)

1 T olive oil (optional)

salt and fresh grated pepper

1 lb whole wheat elbow pasta

1 head cauliflower (cut into bite-size pieces)


Using a food processor, pulse basil, spinach, nuts, garlic, and oil until smooth or desired consistency

Boil water, add pasta and cauliflower pieces, cook until al-dente

Drain, leaving some water in the pot

Return pasta to pot and blend in pesto sauce

Mix well, adding salt and pepper to taste

Add your cheese substitute of choice (non-dairy) at the table and turn your head while others use theirs!

Maybe they were just especially hungry, but this recipe was surprisingly well-received. My aunt doesn’t usually doesn’t like pesto, but she enjoyed this recipe due to the spinach balancing the basil flavor (I didn’t tell her spinach adds powerful anti-oxidants, too). Due to the large amount of cauliflower, there was a lot more than needed for 3 people, and the leftovers tasted even better as a cold pasta salad.

If you’d like more inspiration for vegan and low-fat or fat-free pesto recipes, check out this recipe from FatFreeVegan.

I’d really appreciate your comments on this or your favorite vegan pesto recipes, too. Please let me know what other kinds of recipes you’d be interested in, as well!

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  1. Pingback: Why Not Try Vegan Pesto.

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