This vegan Pine Nut Pesto Sauce is absolutely divine. The texture is like velvet. Rich and creamy, yet totally fragrant and bright. The flavors are basil, garlic, lemon, plant-based Parmesan and of course those nutty, buttery pine nuts. This is a super speedy sauce that will make any boring ‘pasta night’ into something to crave…
Pine Nut Pesto.
I stopped making pesto sauce with pine nuts a long time ago. I remember being at Costco and noticing that a medium-sized bag of pine nuts was something like thirty dollars. then I started noticing how pine nuts were very expensive at just about every store. Pine nuts are still a luxury item. I paid around ten dollars for my medium-sized bag from Whole Foods. But the good news is that a little goes a long way! This recipe calls for only ½ cup of pine nuts, and you can definitely taste their unique, buttery, nutty flavor.
Picking up the ‘richness’ slack in the ingredients department is the olive oil. If you can, use something with a high quality flavor. Something that Ina Garten would call ‘good olive oil.’ you will definitely taste the flavor of the oil in this sauce.
Can I reduce the oil? Sure! You can always make tweaks to pesto. The flavor and texture will vary, but you have that option. IF you reduce the oil, you will want to replace that liquid with a bit more pasta water. In turn, your sauce will be less rich, but still doable.
Fresh Basil. Fresh basil is so important for this recipe. You want to choose basil leaves that are perky green and fluffy and vibrant. Any leaves that are blackening or seem wilted will not be good for pesto sauce.
Which dried pasta to use? You can use any pasta variety you’d like. I love a basic spaghetti. Or something like a penne works very well too.
Make ahead? You can make this pesto sauce up to a day in advance for best flavor. I actually had a bit set aside to see how it fared the next day and it was great! I drizzled it over top an Amy’s frozen vegan pizza. So good!
Other Uses for Pesto Sauce?
- Drizzling over pizza
- Salad dressing or topping sauce
- Sandwich drizzle
- Toss roasted veggies in it
- Over top roasted potatoes
- Pesto Lasagna – using pesto in place of marinara sauce
- And yes, any pasta
Vegan Pesto Sauce
- 1 ½ cups fresh basil, rinsed and packed
- ½ cups pine nuts
- 2-4 cloves raw garlic
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- ⅓ cup olive oil, extra virgin
- ¼ cup Parmesan, vegan
- ½ cup spinach, packed
- ¼ – ⅓ cup ‘pasta water’ or regular warm water
- ½ teaspoon pink salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- Optional: Lightly toast the pine nuts on a warmed skillet over high heat. Toast in a dry pan for just about a minute, or until a few edges start to very lightly brown.
- Add the basil, spinach, EVOO, pine nuts, lemon juice, Parmesan, salt, pepper and pasta water to a blender.
- Blend from low to high for about 2-3 minutes, until perfectly smooth. Add another splash of pasta water if you want your pesto thinned a bit more.
- To add to pasta: Cook pasta. Pour the pesto into a skillet over medium heat. Allow the pesto to gently warm for two minutes. Add the cooked pasta. Gently toss, still over low-medium heat. Turn off heat and serve.
nutrition estimate | per serving
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Craving another pasta dish? Try my Chunky Veggie Pasta Sauce. Or check out my restaurant-style skillet pasta technique.