Pesto chango!

photo 5Pesto has long been a staple in our house. It was one of the first things I cooked for Mark when we started dating and we both loved it so much that I just kept on making it. My pesto recipe is a sun-dried tomato variation on Giada de Laurentiis’ basic basil recipe. I’ve made it so much that I now do it from memory.

I always want to try other pestos, but it is hard to break from tradition when you know that your go-to is THAT good. If I am going to do a new pesto, it needs to feel and taste totally different. Otherwise, what is the point?

When Mark sent me the link to an “animated recipe” for Arugula Pistachio Pesto from Cool Hunting and Mostly Vegan, I felt I had finally found something that was worth exploring. It called for a number of different ingredients – most notably arugula and pistachios instead of basil and pine nuts – with a very different flavor profile.

The real reason I love making pesto is that it is the perfect weeknight meal. Start-to-finish it takes as long as it takes to make the pasta upon which I most commonly serve it. I literally measure out the ingredients, throw them in the food processor, and – PESTO! – dinner is served.

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photo 6What made this recipe interesting – and blog worthy – was the addition of an ingredient totally new to me: nutritional yeast. This recipe is vegan, which my parmesan heavy standard is not. Nutritional yeast, as I learned from research, is a common stand-in for cheese. And this seems to be the reason for it’s appearance here.

I was skeptical about using nutritional yeast. I have seen a number of articles hailing its nutritional and culinary advantages, but I couldn’t remember what those advantages were besides being a cheese substitute for vegans. I wasn’t even entirely sure how easy it would be to find. But when I arrived at Whole Foods Brooklyn and saw that the store stocks two different types of nutritional yeast and that both were sold out, it confirmed my suspicions that nutritional yeast is either:

A) A useful and effective ingredient that provides both protein and an umami flavor to vegan dishes that would otherwise lack that certain “je ne sais quois.”

B) A trendy ingredient that Brooklynites like to have in their pantries to solidify their Brooklyn-ness and separate themselves from the plebeians. (see also: Siracha)

C) A combination of the two.

After this week, I conclude that it is C. It’s not surprising that in Brooklyn stores sell out of an ingredient that most people have never heard of. On the other hand, it brought an interesting taste and texture that I’m curious to explore further. There was indeed a unique, undefinable taste to this pesto that I suspect would not have existed without the yeast.

So I’m sold…sort of. To really get into using nutritional yeast, you have to get over the fact that it looks like fish food. It’s pretty well hidden in this glorious green mix, but I could be turned off if it was just sprinkled on top. More importantly, while I definitely intend to experiment with this new ingredient more, I could never give up cheese entirely. That I just could not handle.

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To try this recipe for yourself, visit:


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