Not Your Traditional Pesto

Well, I could give all sorts of excuses for why you haven’t gotten any posts from me in so long, or I could just make up for it with a delicious recipe for you.  Can we agree you don’t need to hear me whine about how busy life’s been, and how I’ve been spending my time working hard during the day, and being too lazy after work to experiment in the kitchen? Wedding season is also upon us, and my weekends will be quickly filling up, so I thought I better take what time I have to play a little before I find another excuse to skip a post.  I have a few recipes up my sleeve, just waiting to be finalized, but this one screamed to be shared immediately.

Earlier this week, busy at work (*yes, I promised not to whine about how busy work has been…sorry for that – less of a complaint, and more of an explanation of how I was inspired to create this delicious twist on your traditional pesto), the whole work gang was getting pizza.  Two thoughtful coworkers were going to pick it up and remembered that there are a couple of us that are GF, so pizza just wasn’t going to cut through the hangry that was slowly working its way through the crowd.  They stopped at a local fresh food take-out place and brought back an amazing rice noodle bowl, with pesto.  I knew traditional pesto is loaded with delicious parmesan cheese, but at the time I was willing to sacrifice my future upset body for a few moments to sit down and enjoy.  It was totally worth it. I was, however inspired to attempt to recreate it with Pam-friendly ingredients, and I have to say, despite a few last-minute changes to my initial concept, it turned out amazing.  Fresh, flavourful & totally me-friendly.


I had originally imagined a traditional basil-parmesan-pine nut pesto, just with goat parmesan instead of cow.  Unfortunately my go-to goat cheese supplier has been having milk supply issues, and I haven’t been able to get my hands on any for a few weeks now.  It’s a sad state…

But, I do love a challenge.

I also was impatient, and distracted with other projects yesterday, so didn’t have time to go around to multiple stores trying to find the other ingredients I couldn’t get my hands on.  I ended up at a local farmer’s market and got my hands on some fresh basil, but it wasn’t cheap, so I only got one package.  I used to grow my own basil, and I always had an ample supply.  Yesterday was a kick in the butt to get some plants of my own going to avoid this problem again. I also picked up some fresh spinach, that I initially planned to use as an ingredient in the final rice noodle dish, but ended up including it in the pesto itself.  Wow – was that a tasty idea!

Since I  was already making some adaptations to a traditional pesto, I thought I’d go right to town and try with a different nut too.  I know – I’m such a rebel…

So, without further ado, here’s what you need to gather if you want to try out my gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, vegan pesto recipe:

1 cup fresh spinach
1 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup cashews (my were roasted & salted, but I'm sure you could use raw)
1/2 tsp garlic powder (I would use 1-2 cloves fresh if you have it)
1/8 cup olive oil (EVOO)
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp dried parsley (I'd use some fresh if you have it...I really have to get on that herb garden of mine...)
S&P to taste (if using salted nuts, make sure to cut back on the salt)

So, here we go – I can almost smell it. My kitchen smelled so fresh and delicious while putting this together I could have just eaten it with a spoon.  Ok, I may have eaten some with a spoon… but the majority of it did make it to my noodle dish, really.

Throw your cashews into the food processor and grind them up till they are not quite powder.  I like a bit of texture.  Cashews are a little softer than the traditional pine nut, so gives a creamier texture to the final product.  I like that about it.  Yum.

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Add the basil & spinach.  Blend again. If using fresh parsley, instead of the dried, add it here.

My basil didn’t come out to quite a cup, but that’s what inspired me to add some spinach to the mix too.  I think it was a win overall.  If making it again, with unlimited basil supplies, I’d add a bit more than what I had on hand this time – to make up a full, packed cup’s worth.

Drizzle the olive oil into the food processor while blending.  Scrape down the sides as needed.


Add the remaining ingredients – including this miracle stuff – nutritional yeast.  It adds such a delicious cheesy flavour, I promise you won’t miss the parmesan!


Blend it all until it becomes this delicious green paste.  Serve immediately over noodles, as a spread on bread or crackers, or just plain eat it on a spoon… ok, so eating it on a spoon is probably not the most effective way to enjoy it, but do taste test it a little to adjust the salt & pepper to suit you.20160611_192357

I served mine up cold over prepared rice stick noodles, with sliced black olives, goat feta cheese, spinach, red peppers & red onions.  I’ll be making this again and again.  If I left out the goat feta it is even vegan-friendly!



  • Jaimee

    Looks really yummy! Back when I was cooking vegan food, I made a lot of pesto. I used almonds, garlic, basil and olive oil. And salt! Simple and delicious. Glad you found some time to create something so delicious looking. Next, show us some of your needlework creations!

    • velvetShimmer

      Jaimee! I completely agree! I need to get back to my other crafty stuff! My craft room took a big step in the right direction this weekend – a bookcase almost refinished and ready to unpack my supplies. So far most of my craft supplies are still in boxes, so I have hardly touched them since the move!
      PS – your pesto sounds delish!

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