I had a bumper basil crop this year and I managed to stow away a few jars of basil pesto in the freezer before my beautiful plants wilted in the cooling weather. It’s not even winter yet, and I have already run out of all that gorgeous green stuff because we love it so much and it’s so easy to mix up some pasta with pesto for a hurried weeknight dinner. So now, when I get cravings for a quick and easy pesto, I go to this, my favorite winter pasta sauce: vegan olive pesto.
The great thing about this olive pesto is that it is made entirely with pantry stuff. No need for fresh, green herbs here, although if you had some, you could throw in a handful of basil. I used dried basil out of a jar, kalamata olives out of a jar, capers out of a jar, cashew nuts, and the usual pesto suspects like garlic and red pepper flakes. It’s easy and it’s delicious and I bet you have most of this stuff in your kitchen already.
Toast the cashew nuts slightly before you add them to the pesto. It’s tempting to skip this step when you’re rushed, but the toasting really gives the cashews — and therefore your pesto — a deep, nutty flavor. I sometimes stir in some miso into my pesto at the very end for an added flavor wallop, but the capers are salty enough to flavor the pesto, so I leave it out. If your taste runs to saltier food, add a tablespoon of miso: your tummy and tastebuds will thank you for it.
I mixed some green beans and potatoes into this pasta, partly for the nutrition but also because it makes this already delicious pasta even more tasty and kid-friendly. Jay has proclaimed it one of his two favorite pastas (spaghetti with marinara and veggie meatballs being the other).
Hope everyone’s enjoying the mellow warmth of the holiday season. It really is a magical time, isn’t it?
- 1 12- oz package of whole wheat or regular linguine pasta
- 3 red or yellow potatoes boiled and diced
- 2 cups green beans steamed until just tender (I put them in a microwave-safe bowl, add a tablespoon of water, cover with a microwave-safe lid, and nuke them at full power for five minutes. Test timing in your own microwave because, in my experience, different brands and makes work differently.
- For the olive pesto:
- 1/2 cup olives kalamata or green olives will both work
- 1/4 cup capers
- 1/3 cup raw cashew nuts or cashew pieces
- 1 clove large garlic
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp dry basil
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Ground black pepper and salt to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook linguine per package directions.
- While linguine is cooking, make the pesto.
- Roast the cashews in a small skillet, stirring frequently, over low heat for 3-4 minutes or until they start to turn lightly golden.
- Place the cashews, olives and capers (make sure you drained both of their briny liquid before measuring), basil, red pepper flakes, ground black pepper to taste, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil in a food processor and process into a coarse paste.
- Place the olive pesto in a large bowl with 1/2 cup of the water the pasta was cooked in. Mix well.
- Add the steamed green beans, boiled potatoes, and the cooked linguine and stir together vigorously until everything is well mixed.
- Add more salt and ground black pepper if needed.
- Serve warm or at room temperature. I like a small drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on my pasta before I eat.
More pesto pastas from the archives: