Avocado pesto pasta recipe packed with supernatural kale, walnuts and basil. A healthy WFPB version of the Italian classic pesto sauce recipe without oil or dairy.
Avocado Pesto Pasta
The perfect alchemy of flavors and textures between basil, avocado and kale, yields this raw, lusciously creamy, incredibly delicious avocado pesto that’s brimming with micronutrients and comfort. Dairy-free, vegan and so tasty, who knew kale could ever taste this good..?!
About the Pesto Sauce
In lieu of olive oil the sauce uses some of the starchy pasta cooking water to create a luscious oil-free emulsion that’s actually good for you. It’s enough to coat an entire pound of pasta like spaghettini or linguine, but it also lends itself well to coating short pasta shapes such as orecchiette or gnocchi. I love using spaghettini noodles here made from organic durum wheat semolina, it’s a size between spaghetti and capellini with the perfect al dente bite. Make sure to salt the cooking water well, it should taste like the ocean and it plays an important role in seasoning the sauce.
Ingredient Tips + FAQ
- Avocado – For creaminess and body, the flesh from a regular size one is plenty. (Pit + skin discarded, but you already knew that, right?!).
- Lemon – Squeeze a juicy lemon over the avocado as soon as you slice it. The citrus will prevent oxidation and browning of the sauce and brighten up the flavor profile. Don’t skip it.
- Basil – Fresh fragrant Genoese basil is traditionally used in pesto, use whatever is available. You’ll need 1/3 cup of leaves here (no stems) for that authentic Italian pesto flavor and to tame the kale.
- Walnuts – Real brain food, amazing nutty flavor and body + by using walnuts instead of the more traditional pine nuts you can avoid the pine mouth syndrome. For a nut-free alternative you can use equal parts of sunflower or pumpkin seeds, toasting enhances their flavor but I don’t find it necessary here.
- Garlic – Make sure to grate or mince it first both to release flavor but also to avoid any big pieces in the sauce. 2-3 large cloves is enough but you can certainly add more.
- Kale – I used chopped up Lacinato kale / Kavalo Nero aka black cabbage or Tuscan kale, however any variety you prefer will work just fine, even baby kale. Pack it well and watch your immune system rip the benefits!
- What can I use instead of kale? Although you can’t really taste it after it’s blended into the sauce, if you truly don’t fancy this dark leafy green at all, you can swap it for equal parts of baby spinach, chard and even steamed broccoli florets.
- Will my pesto turn brown? Because there is a generous amount of freshly squeezed lemon juice and a combination of greens, this pesto keeps nicely in the fridge for a couple of days without browning.
- Food Processor vs Blender – For the creamiest sauce emulsion it is recommended to use a blender. If a more rustic texture is desired then a food processor will do a great job!
On Storage + Reheating
In spite of this sauce having an avocado base, it keeps well refrigerated for a couple of days in a lidded container, thanks to all the acidity from the lemon which prevents browning. It can be reheated in the microwave oven or the stove top and loosen up with a splash of veggie stock if needed. For best results freezing is not recommended.
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how to make avocado pesto pasta
Avocado Pesto Pasta
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Season generously with coarse sea salt (approximately 2 tbsp or so- the pasta water should taste like the sea). Add your durum wheat spaghettini and cook until al dente according to package instructions. A couple of minute before the pasta is done make sure to reserve one cup of the cooking water.1 lb spaghettini pasta
- Meanwhile to the bowl of a powerful blender add the walnuts, basil, garlic, avocado, lemon juice and chopped kale. Pour in 3/4 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water and process until a silky emulsion is achieved. Add more water as needed or desired. Taste and adjust seasonings with sea salt and lemon. (If you seasoned the pasta water correctly then you won’t need to add any extra salt into the pesto).1 avocado, 1/2 cup walnuts, 1 cup Lacinato kale, 1/3 cup basil leaves, 1 lemon, 3 cloves garlic, 1 pinch sea salt, 3/4 cup pasta cooking water
- Drain the pasta (do not rinse) and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Pour the pesto over the top and using a pair of kitchen tongs toss well until coated all over.
- Serve garnished with fresh or roasted cherry tomatoes, toasted bread crumbs, a pinch of crushed red pepper and lemon wedges
WFPB + Plantricious
- The pesto sauce is WFPB compliant, just make sure to use a compliant pasta to toss it with.
- What can I use instead of kale? Although you can't really taste it after it's blended into the sauce, if you truly don't fancy this dark leafy green at all, you can swap it for equal parts of baby spinach, chard and even steamed broccoli florets.
- Food Processor vs Blender - For the creamiest sauce emulsion it is recommended to use a blender. If a more rustic texture is desired then a food processor will do the a great job!
- Nut-Free - Swap the walnuts for equal parts of sunflower or pumpkin seeds, toasting enhances their flavor but I don't find it necessary here.