This pesto with cashews is totally customizable according to your taste (& availability of ingredients). Learn how to make your own roasted garlic pesto for a quick and easy pasta dinner like angel hair with pesto!
About the recipe
Pesto with cashews is my go-to pasta sauce on busy (or rather lazy) days when cooking is not on top of my mind. Those long days when you and the family come home tired and hungry, and you’re so tempted to order take-out 🙁
If I have an abundance of Thai basil leaves, I make the Thai basil pesto instead.
Or I make the red chilli pesto with almonds if I have cherry tomatoes and red pepper.
This cashew pesto recipe uses less oil and cheese. You’ll love this recipe because it is also customizable according to your preferred taste. Have a look at the additions and substitutions below to pick and choose your favorite pesto!
Try the easy angel hair pasta with fresh homemade cashew pesto that takes less than 30 minutes of your precious time. You’ll be glad that you did.
Other than pasta, this roasted garlic pesto can be drizzled on soups like roasted pumpkin soup or a salad like Italian balsamic pasta salad. Once you realise how easy and delicious it is, you’ll be tempted to eat it with anything from veggie sticks to chips to pizza!
Ingredients for cashew pesto recipe
- Mint and cilantro: This combination of herbs have amazing flavors. One of the reasons for using mint and cilantro is that they can withstand heat better than basil. So you can use this mint pesto for warm dishes, too. Basil pesto tastes great but I wanted to try varitions with other herbs that are equally delicious.
- Toasted cashews: When compared to pine nuts nutritionally, cashews have more protein and minerals like calcium and iron while less in calories and fat. (source) Cashews are also less expensive than pine nuts, so it helps if you’re cooking on a budget.
- Roasted garlic: Roasting your garlic rather than using raw garlic makes the pesto taste even better.
- You’re going to use only a couple of garlic cloves, so roast a few whole garlic heads and refrigerate or freeze the rest. There are tons of ways you can use roasted garlic and they keep well for months. Garlic bread, salad dressings, pasta sauce and dips are some of the recipes where you can use mashed roasted garlic. Try my popular whole roasted pumpkin soup recipe with roasted garlic. Or replace raw garlic with roasted ones in Greek chicken pasta salad.
- Chillies: For that spicy kick. You can skip it if you feel it is outrageous to use chillies in pesto!
- Lemon juice: Adds a bit of zest to the pesto and goes well with mint flavor.
- Pink Himalayan salt: This is yet another ingredient that gives a unique flavor. It is more of a personal preference and I use it in all my salads and sauces. You can replace it with regular sea salt.
- Parmesan: Well after all, it is pesto, folks!
- Olive oil, that brings it all together into a creamy sauce.
Angel hair pasta with pesto
Though any kind of pasta can be used in the pesto pasta recipe, spaghetti and angel hair pasta are my favorites since they require less pesto sauce that clings to the strands uniformly. I love angel hair pasta especially since it cooks very fast, as we saw in the recipe for angel hair pasta with shrimps and red sauce.
How to make pesto with cashews- step by step
(You can find the exact measurements and instructions in the printable recipe card at the end of this page.)
How to roast garlic and cashews
Roasting garlic and cashews in the oven: Cut a whole garlic bulb in half horizontally, drizzle a little olive oil and wrap in a piece of foil. Roast for about 25 minutes at 180°C/ 350°F. Spread cashews in a sheet pan and roast for 5 minutes.
Roasting on the stovetop: Peel and roughly chop garlic cloves. Heat a small pan and dry-roast the chopped garlic and cashews on a low flame for about 5 to 8 minutes. Roast until the cashews are browned and you get a nice aroma.
How to blend roasted garlic pesto
If you want a smooth pesto, process the toasted cashews, garlic, parmesan, salt and chillies (if using) first until finely chopped. Then add mint and cilantro and process until smooth. While the motor is still running, add olive oil and process for a minute or two.
If you like your pesto a little chunky, process all ingredients together except olive oil until you get the desired consistency. Then add olive oil as above.
The texture depends on how you’re going to use the pesto. As a rule of thumb, if you’re using the pesto recipe for pasta, it is better to have a chunky texture. For other uses such as adding to dips or topping, a smoother texture works great.
How to cook Angel hair pasta
Boil water (about 3 liters/ 12 cups for this recipe) in a large stockpot with 1 tablespoon of salt. There should be enough water and space for the pasta to move around. So choose a large pot to boil the pasta.
Angel hair pasta typically takes 2 to 4 minutes to cook depending on the brand. Cook 1 minute lesser than the time specified in the package. Mine said 2 minutes so I cooked for 1 minute.
Cook the pasta and drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water. Transfer to a large bowl and immediately toss with the cashew pesto sauce, adding pasta water as required. Serve sprinkled with parmesan and chili flakes!
Tips to make the best Angel hair with pesto
- Reserve a cup of pasta water before draining. This helps in 2 ways:
- To get the delicious saucy consistency when tossing the pasta with pesto (the starch in the water does the trick)
- While storing leftover pasta in the refrigerator, refrigerate the pasta water also in a separate container. For serving the pasta warm, take out both and leave outside the fridge for about 15 minutes. Then, boil the pasta water and add to the pesto pasta, a little at a time and toss.
- Do not toss the pasta in the pot in which you boiled the pasta. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl, add the pesto and toss, adding pasta water as you toss.
- Cold pesto pasta tastes refreshingly good. But if you like warm pasta, do not heat the pesto or reheat the pasta after adding the pesto sauce. If you’re not serving right away, use the above method to warm up the pasta.
Additions and substitutions
- Make it an almond pesto by replacing cashews with almonds.
- Change this recipe to mint basil pesto by replacing parsley with Italian basil. It works well with Thai basil, too!
- Make mint pesto without nuts by replacing cashews with an equal amount of boiled peas or edamame beans.
- Make mint pesto with seeds by replacing cashews with toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or sunflower seeds.
Is cashew pesto healthy?
When you look at the ingredients for pesto individually, each of them has great health benefits like antioxidants, HEART-HEALTHY FATS, fiber and a whole lot of NUTRIENTS. However, the pesto has a bad reputation of being high in calories due to the large quantities of olive oil. In this recipe, I’ve used an optimum quantity of olive oil (1/2 cup for 2 cups of pesto that equals 8 servings when added to pasta) that gives a nice balance so the pesto pasta is delicious and saucy, yet not so greasy with too much oil.
What else to do with cilantro mint pesto
- Apart from pasta, roasted garlic pesto can also be added to dips and sauces to enhance their flavor.
- Drizzle on your pizza, salads, soups, fries or roasted veggies.
- Make a cashew pesto pasta salad with any short pasta and chicken. (Drizzle a few spoons on creamy spicy chicken pasta salad or substitute the yogurt sauce with pesto.)
- Use as a sauce for pan-fried chicken or salmon.
- Marinate thin-sliced chicken breasts with mint pesto and sear or bake them.
If you love vegetarian pasta salads, try this easy Italian pasta salad.
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