Vegan Spinach Pesto

Vegan Spinach Pesto on Homemade Challah with Tuscan Bean Soup

OK, I’m in love. I made a Shabbat dinner for our scholar-in-residence weekend, and the visiting scholar was the first (and only) female rabbi in Italy. Of course I decided to make an Italian inspired dinner. Of course it had to include pesto.

Now I used to make a number of dishes with a delicious organic pesto I found at Costco. If you know me, you know I use almost no commercial food products, but this one passed muster with me since it was organic, had few ingredients, none that were unpronounceable and none that I didn’t recognize as real food. Then I started working on this vegan thing. Couldn’t use it.

In researching for this meal, I found the following recipe in Pinterest, provided by Baker by Nature.  I enjoyed the preview you see here — with a bit of my homemade Spelt Challah and some of the Tuscan Bean Soup I made for the dinner. The recipe didn’t use the requisite Parmesan cheese, and I was a little uncertain, but the result was, nonetheless, amazing. I couldn’t get enough. I hated to have to use the quart I made for the dinner and can’t wait to make my own quart to consume at home!  Oh, I doubled the recipe to get a quart.

It does occur to me that I didn’t miss the cheese partly because of the extra virgin olive oil (use a good one!) and partly because of the pine nuts, a traditional part of this recipe. Those pine nuts are ridiculously expensive, though. I may try it another time with peeled almonds or perhaps raw cashews (cashews because, like pine nuts, they are soft and rich). For now, tho, this is how I made it, and it’s wonderful!

Vegan Spinach Pesto

  • Spinach leaves, 2 very big handfuls
  • Basil leaves, 1 very big handful
  • Pine nuts, 1/3 cup
  • Garlic, 5 cloves
  • Salt, 1 tsp.
  • Pepper, 1/2 tsp.
  • Crushed red pepper, 1/2 tsp.
  • Lemon, juice of one small (about 1/8 cup)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 3/8 cup (max. 1/2 cup)

I rarely use black pepper in anything, and I usually opt for hot paprika over crushed red pepper. Honestly, I don’t remember for sure what I did in this case, but I would guess I did use the crushed red pepper, perhaps a little rounded, and skipped the black pepper.

I chopped the spinach and basil very slightly and put everything into a food processor, starting with the garlic and pine nuts, then the greens, and finally the seasonings. I pulsed it all a few times until it was evenly chopped, then ran the processor until everything was granular and even. I added the oil and lemon, then pulsed again. The original recipe called for more oil, but I like it better with a little less.

As I said, I’m in love! Can’t wait to make this again.

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Ideas? Would like to hear from you!