Pecan Sage Pesto Pasta

The traditional pesto recipe combines pine nuts, basil, olive oil, parmesan and garlic. But if you look at pesto as more of a formula than a recipe, you can experiment to make it to your liking. The pesto formula is like a mad libs: nut/seed, herb, fat, cheese and aromatic. So for my pesto, I chose the pecans as my nut, sage as my herb,  a blend of butter and olive oil as my fat, swiss cheese (dairy-free of course, from Daiya) as my cheese, and garlic as my aromatic. To enhance flavor, I toasted the nuts, roasted the garlic, and browned the butter. If you eat traditional pesto, you will taste the sharp punch from the raw garlic, but I hate that bitterness, so I chose to roast my garlic. Lastly, I tossed the pesto pasta with lemon juice to add back the acidity that was lost by cooking the garlic.


Pasta of choice, I used shells

1/4 cup Pecans

Sage (fresh preffered) 

Earth Balance butter ~3 tbs

Olive oil

1/2 slice (~2 tbs) Daiya Swiss Cheese, or any mild white dairy free cheese

One garlic clove

Lemon juice 

Start by cooking the pasta. Cook pasta according to package instructions in heavily salted water. Salting the water is the key first flavor-building step in any pasta dish.

While the pasta is cooking, start bringing together the pesto. 

Toast the pecans in the toaster oven at 400°F for about 2 minutes. “Roast” the garlic in the oven for about 5 minutes, until just before it starts to brown and you can no longer smell any sharpness. Actual ly roasting garlic takes like 45 minutes, but you can take a shortcut by tossing very finely sliced garlic with a drop of olive oil in a little bowl and roasting that. 

The roasted garlic should smell aslightly sweet and not at all bitter

The pecans should give off a toasty, nutty smell when you take them out of the oven

Brown the butter in a pan on medium-low heat for no more than a few minutes. It probably won’t really appear brown, especially in a black pan, but it should smell sweet and nutty. 

Careful not to burn the butter

Combine nuts and sage in a small blender. In the picture, my pesto looks brown, because I didn’thave any fresh sage and had to use dried. If you have fresh sage, try frying the leaf. Fried sage is delicious! Now add the rest of the pesto ingredients and blend until smooth. At this point the pesto is thick and nut-butter-y. Add a circle olive oil and blend until pesto is smooth and thin enough to toss pasta in. 

It won’t really be a liquid-y sauce, more like a gritty nut butter

Toss cooked pasta, pesto and a tablespoon of lemon juice.

Garnish with fresh sage.


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