Traditional pesto can be expensive to make. Unless you grow your own basil, it can be pricey to buy a few bunches to get enough for a good-size batch of pesto. And who the hell can afford pine nuts?

Although my preferred nuts for pesto are cashews (which I used for my pesto risotto and pesto gnocchi), I’ve been interested in experimenting a little more. I also wanted to branch out with the greens a little more, and luckily I had a bag of baby spinach.

My trick to making a great pesto is blending the nuts and oil before adding any of the other ingredients. My food processor isn’t exactly a beast, so it takes up to 5 minutes to get it blended as smoothly as I want. If you have a Vita-Mix or other high-powered blender, that would make this a lot easier.

Also, I’m a garlic fiend, so I realize that four cloves of garlic might be too much for some people. Feel free to cut it down to two.

I served this pasta with a roasted portabello. The recipe is in Veganomicon.

Oh, and in case you guys haven’t noticed, I don’t write how many servings are in a recipe. This is because I don’t measure the food I eat – I just eat until I’m almost full. This recipe makes a ton, so it’d be great if you’re feeding a large group or if you want something you can eat for days.

Spinach-Walnut Pesto Pasta
3 cups baby spinach, washed
1 cup fresh basil
1 cup walnuts, raw
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs nutritional yeast
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1 lb pasta of choice (I used shells)

First, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook noodles according to package instructions.

While the pasta is cooking, add the walnuts and olive oil to a food processor or high-speed blender. Blend until almost completely smooth (time will depend on your machine). Once smooth, add the basil and spinach, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.

Once the pasta is done cooking, drain and place in a large bowl. Toss with the pesto and cherry tomatoes. Serve.

What is your favorite herb/green and nut combo for pesto?

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