optional: salt and pepper
As I've mentioned in my last few blog posts, I've been taking a break from dairy recently. It's been fun trying new recipes and working with new ingredients and I feel great, but every now and then I get a craving for something really rich and creamy. This pesto pasta hit the spot.
One of the greatest little tricks I've learned since reading up on vegan cooking is adding cashew "cream", or cashew "butter" as it's sometimes called, to soups, salad dressings and sauces to add a real creaminess to a dish. (Not to mention adding some protein and healthy fats.)
You just soak about a cup of raw cashews in water overnight. I've used roasted cashews as well, when I couldn't find raw ones, and they worked just fine too. And I've soaked them for as little as an hour or two before using them in a recipe but I think overnight is better.
After they soak you drain the water and put them in the blender with just enough fresh water to help it blend easily and give it a smooth texture. (It comes out looking very similar to hummus.)
You can store it in the fridge for about 2-3 days.
To make the pesto, I added about 2 cups of fresh basil, about 1/3 a cup of pine nuts, 3 spoonfuls of olive oil, 2 spoonfuls of the cashew "cream", the juice of half a lemon and a little salt into the blender for about 30 seconds. So easy!
After that I just poured it over some cooked quinoa spaghetti (which is gluten free) and stirred it well to coat the pasta. Then I chopped up a few cherry tomatoes and added some lemon zest. (I recently bought a nifty little tool called a Microplane zester/grater and I love it! It was only $12.99 and I use constantly. Now I put lemon zest on everything.) But the lemon goes especially well with the tomato and basil. So fresh!