My boyfriend is a meat lover. Now I have nothing against carnivores. I do love eating meat if I can ensure that the animal was ethically raised and grass fed (this usually means consuming meat from my mum's farm); but since I am living in a northern city in Alberta, far from my mum's farm, I have extremely limited access to meat that fits my strict criteria, so naturally, I have been living as a vegetarian for almost a year. My boyfriend has been struggling with the new vegetarian diet I imposed upon him, which I can understand. So to help make his vegetarian experience a little easier I put a lot of effort into creating dishes that have a whack of flavour and are still very filling. Pesto and chickpea pasta came to mind, so I rolled with it... My original intention was to make a classic pesto (using pine nuts and basil) and share this with my boyfriend and the online world! Filled with inspiration I headed to the grocery store, list in hand, to purchase a few essential items for creating pesto, specifically, a bag of pine nuts. Upon checkout I was watching my groceries slide over the scanner - the price flashing up on the screen. To my dismay, as my 2 cup bag of pine nuts slid over the scanner the number $37.00 flashed onto the computer screen! Are you shocked? I was horrified, and I quickly had the cashier remove the pine nuts from my grocery bag - I could not justify purchasing 2 cups of pine nuts for over $30.00! I knew I had a large bag of walnuts at home, so I made the decision to make my pesto with a different nut base.
Understandably all nuts and seeds will come at a cost, so if you are at home and would like to make pesto but you don't happen to have pine nuts, or even walnuts on hand, but happen to have some cashews or pecans sitting around, try using these instead. Recipes are not static, they are meant to be played with, adjusted, don't feel trapped by an ingredient list. Just remember that substituting ingredients will result in different flavours, which I think makes recipes more unique and perhaps more suited to your own palate.
2 cups walnuts
2 cups basil (loosely packed)
2 cups spinach (loosely packed)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon juiced
6-8 cloves of garlic (depending on your flavour preference)
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 cups of chickpeas (cooked)
pasta of your choice
Whenever I make pesto I always put a pot of water on the stove before I start processing my ingredients, so my suggestion to you is to first select your pasta (this time I used spaghetti) and get a pot of water boiling. While you are waiting for it to boil start your pesto.
Ideally you would use a food processor to make your pesto, but it is possible to also use a blender or even mortar and pestle (if you would like some extra exercise)! In the food processor, add the nuts (of your choice) and garlic. Blend on low for a minute, then add the basil, spinach, oil, salt and pepper. Continue to blend the ingredients on low for a few minutes, scraping down the sides when the contents start to build up on the bowl. You want to end up with a smooth pureed texture, and this may take up to five minutes. Taste test your pesto and add some extra salt if you find it a bit bland!
Once your pasta is boiled add your desired amount of pesto to the pasta, followed by the chickpeas. Stir and enjoy!
Side Note: If my pesto has been sitting in the fridge I usually mix a few spoonfuls of pesto with some water to help break it up so it mixes into the pasta more smoothly.