By Heather Legg
Spring is closing in after a long cold winter. After stews and roast chickens and hearty meals, it’s time for something a bit lighter. Nothing says spring more than a fresh pesto over pasta, but for those of us with nut allergies, it can be deadly. However, there are tons of substitutes out there, so here is a basic allergy free pesto recipe and lots of alternatives to try instead of the chickpeas (which already replaced the pine nuts).
3-4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch (about 2 cups) basil
1/2 cup or more chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2-3 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1/2 parmesan cheese or dairy free cheese if needed
freshly ground black pepper
1 box regular or gluten-free pasta
Wash and dry the basil. Put the basil leaves, garlic, chickpeas and cheese into the bowl of a food processor, and start to blend until the mixture is a smooth puree. With the motor running, pour the oil in gradually until the mixture becomes a thick, dense sauce. Add salt to taste. Add more chickpeas for a thicker consistency.
Cook pasta to package directions and serve immediately with the sauce.
If chickpeas aren’t your think, I’ve seen so many variations on this that you can try. You may want brown rice instead which adds a nice nutty flavor in place of the pine nuts. Try sesame, pumpkin or sunflower seeds in place of the nuts. You may want to add more parmesan cheese to get the right flavor. Sun dried tomatoes work well and give a totally different taste, a sweeter, tangier one than the original nutty one, and instead of the bright green pesto, it will of course be on the redder side. Edamame works well, but you may want to up the garlic and cheese to enhance the flavor, and it mimics the green color, if you can use edamame you can also try soy nuts, which aren’t actually nuts but soybeans. You still get the texture and nutty flavor though.
Often people make pesto with only basil, garlic, olive oil and cheese. That can be truly delicious and fresh as well. Try some experimenting and find what works for you. Be daring and you can even substitute other greens for the basil, like Italian parsley or cilantro. It’s all about proportion and like ingredients, and makes for a very yummy sauce.