Creamy White Bean Pesto Pasta
A delicious vegan pasta that features a creamy white bean pesto sauce. White beans make for a creamy sauce without dairy, and are a great source of added protein. Top with homemade brazil nut parmesan. A crowd pleaser! Vegan & Gluten Free.
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We’ve had a lot of pesto the last few weeks. The sun and warm spring air have filled my head with a seemingly endless list of pesto combinations. Sorrel and lemon, spinach and feta, and now white bean and basil. I'm quickly learning that if there's anything that could stand up to the versatility of pasta, pesto is getting pretty darn close.
Anguel and I have a special attachment to pesto. In our relationship’s early days, Anguel was very eager to impress me with his … erm ‘cooking skills', which you can read more about here. We both quickly learned that simple, fool-proof recipes were the perfect choice for our dinners in – or at least the ones he was in charge of. And this Ina Garten Spinach & Pesto Salad quickly became one of our favorites. Thankfully, we've expanded from store-bought pestos and now prefer to make our own at home when we can. The freshness is so worth it!
Today's recipe packs in the delicious flavors of a pesto pasta, but with some serious health upgrades. Vegetarian pastas usually leave something to be desired. They're usually loaded with heaps of oil / cheese, and all too often lack a source of protein. So while they might be a delicious dish of carb-y goodness (cue nap time), they’re often lacking in the health department. I wanted to change that. Here, white beans form a creamy base for the sauce. One that's entirely dairy free – hip, hip hooray for a vegan pasta! And this creamy base couldn't be easier. I usually use a can of cannellini beans to save time, but you could definitely substitute canned for home-cooked beans. A quick dance party in the saucepan will infuse the beans with flavors of onion, garlic, and vegetable stock. And once the flavors have developed, a food processor or blender will turn your sauce into a creamy base.
The creamy white bean base is then combined with a flavorful pesto sauce. The pesto itself is more of a classic take – with basil, pine nuts and lemon juice – just without the cheese. I like to throw in an extra handful or two of spinach as well, because it's an easy way to get more greens into your life. And since the basil is much stronger in taste, the spinach is barely recognizable.
A sprinkling of extra mix-ins keeps this pasta fresh and bright. I prefer to use spinach and green peas, which work together beautifully – and because it reminds me of Ina's salad, which we love. They also don't require any additional prep, which suits us well on weeknights when were tight on time. You can feel free to add in whatever toppings you wish. And because it's sometimes hard to have pasta without the cheese, this is where the Brazil nut parmesan comes in. No, it's not actually cheese. But it does add the salty, cheesy elements that you get from a parmesan topping. Vegan style, of course. But it's not strictly for vegans - even our cheese loving friends adore it!
This recipe makes a rather large batch. It's perfect for us because we love serving this dish to friends – it's even a big hit with the green vegetable-avoidant types. Spinach in pesto is like childhood, I mean adulthood, trickery at its finest. If you want a smaller portion, I'd suggest storing half the sauce in the fridge and then cooking up fresh pasta the next day. Or, if you're all about efficiency, just make the full batch, and store the fully dressed pasta in the fridge. It makes a delicious and filling lunch or dinner the next day.