Fresh asparagus form the centrepiece of this vegan pesto dish - a rugged sauce that pairs the vegetable with vibrant lemon and fragrant basil. Though we omit the usual formaggio in our plant-based recipe, this pesto still retains its signature creaminess, thanks to rich pine nuts and high quality extra virgin olive oil (in a recipe of so few components, sourcing quality ingredients is key). Atop with a sprinkling of sweet roasted cherry tomatoes for the ultimate taste of summer. For a vegan accompaniment, we recommend serving this pesto with a classic pasta bianca (white pasta, made without egg) shape, like orecchiette, trofie, or cavatelli.
Our asparagus & lemon pesto recipe
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Calories per serving: 198 kcal per serving (excludes pasta)
For the pesto:
- 250g asparagus
- 3 cups basil, cleaned and chopped
- The zest of 1 lemon
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Salt to taste
To serve: (optional)
- 250g cherry tomatoes
- 200g asparagus
- Pestle and mortar
- Roasting tray
Chef’s tip: If you don’t have a pestle and mortar at home, you can use a food processor. We like a pesto that has a slightly rustic texture so be sure not to over grind.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and prepare your roasting vegetables (if using) by cutting all the cherry tomatoes in half and place in a large roasting tray.
- To prepare your your asparagus, firstly wash each spear. Take a single stem in your hand, holding each end of the spear with two fingers. Gently wiggle the spear, and allow the stem to naturally snap, removing the woody base of the asparagus. Roughly chop the stems into manageable pieces.
- (If using) place 200g of the asparagus into the roasting tray with the tomatoes, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Toss gently in the tray to ensure it is evenly coated and cook in the middle of the oven for 10-12 minutes.
- Bring a pan of water to a boil, and add your asparagus. Blanch for around 2 minutes, before straining and immediately transferring to a bowl of icy water, to retain the colour and crunch of the vegetable.
- Gently toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat until they turn slightly brown in colour and are fragrant. Keep them moving to prevent burning. Should any pine nuts turn dark brown in colour, be sure to remove them before adding to the basil, as they will impart a burnt flavour to the pesto.
- Put the basil, lemon, minced garlic clove and 2 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil to a pestle and mortar and grind until creamy.
- Gradually add the asparagus and pine nuts and grind until they start to break down and combine with the oil and basil mixture. You should have a creamy yet slightly chunky consistency.
- Drizzle the remaining olive oil and continue to grind until you have a creamy paste. We recommend leaving it a little rustic as this will help it adhere to the pasta.
- The pesto is best eaten straight away, but can be kept in clean mason jars and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- Serve with your favourite vegan pasta and a sprinkling of roasted cherry tomatoes and asparagus. Buon appetito!
For more delicious vegan recipes, check out our vegan pasta hub.