Roasted Garlic Pesto with Cashews and Mint

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!

top view of roasted garlic pesto with cashews in a glass jar.

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 πŸ™

If I have an abundance of Thai basil leaves, I make the Thai basil pesto instead. Or spinach pesto if I have a lot of spinach in my fridge.

Or I make the red pesto pasta with chilli pesto 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.

I usually pair it with some roasted vegetables and easy protein like baked chicken breasts for a quick and easy dinner. It also pairs well with sauteed shrimps with peppers or panko-crusted cod.

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 Veggie 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.
ingredients (cashews, mint, parsley, garlic, olive oil and parmesan for roasted garlic pesto.

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 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.

pesto with cashews in a glass jar.

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 the drained pasta to a large bowl and immediately toss with the cashew pesto sauce, adding pasta water as required. Serve sprinkled with parmesan and chili flakes!

Angel Hair Pasta with roasted garlic pesto served on 2 white ceramic plates.

Tips to make the best Angel hair with pesto

  • Reserve a cup of pasta water before draining. This helps in 2 ways:
    1. To get the delicious saucy consistency when tossing the pasta with pesto (the starch in the water does the trick)
    2. 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 them 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.
Angel Hair Pasta with cilantro mint pesto served on a white ceramic plate with a fork.

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.

How to use cilantro mint pesto

  1. Apart from pasta, roasted garlic pesto can also be added to dips and sauces to enhance their flavor.
  2. Make pesto-topped salmon with this cashew mint pesto.
  3. Drizzle on your pizza, salads, soups, fries or roasted veggies.
  4. Make a cashew pesto pasta salad with any short pasta and chicken. (Drizzle a few spoons on creamy veggie chicken pasta salad or substitute the yogurt sauce with pesto.)
  5. Use as a sauce for pan-fried chicken or salmon.
  6. 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.

Craving creamy pasta, but worried about high calories and expanding waistline? Try these no-guilt pasta recipes like zucchini mushroom pasta and creamy vegetable pasta with vegan garlic sauce.

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top view of roasted garlic Pesto with cashews in a glass jar.

Roasted Garlic Pesto with Cashews and Mint

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!
Author: Sheeba
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course sauce
Cuisine Italian
Servings 5 people
Calories 284 kcal

Ingredients
  

Cashew pesto

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup cashewnuts
  • ¼ cup parmesan
  • ½ teaspoon Himalayan pink salt or sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup mint leaves tightly packed
  • 1 cup cilantro tightly packed
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 green chili (optional)
  • a pinch chilli flakes

For pesto pasta

  • 340 gms angel hair pasta (12 oz)

Instructions
 

How to make roasted garlic pesto with cashews

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Brush the garlic cloves with olive oil and wrap them in a piece of baking paper and place in the oven. Roast for about 15 minutes. (note 1)
  • Spread cashews on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 5 minutes.
    Alternatively, the garlic and cashews can be dry roasted (separately) in a pan on stovetop until browned. Roast the garlic with the skin and remove it after it cools down.
  • Place the cashews, roasted garlic, parmesan, chilies (if using), salt and lemon juice in a food processor. Process until finely chopped. Add the mint and cilantro and process until you get the desired consistency. (see the post above for chunky vs smooth pesto)
  • While the motor is still running, add olive oil and process for a minute more.

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.
    Drain, reserving a cup of pasta water. Transfer to a large bowl.

Angel hair with pesto

  • Add pesto to the pasta and 3 tablespoons of pasta water and toss well.
  • Before serving, add the required amount of remaining water, a little at a time and toss. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve.

Notes

  • Roasting garlic heads: It may not be (energy) efficient to roast 2 cloves of garlic in the oven. Whole garlic heads can be roasted in a similar way for 25 to 30 minutes. The remaining cloves can be refrigerated. Mashed roasted garlic tastes great in dips, pasta sauces, garlic bread and almost any recipe that uses garlic.
  • Substitute: For a nut-free option, swap cashews with an equal amount of toasted pumpkin seeds. (Look for more substitutions for cashew pesto in the post above.)
  • Add-ons: Sun-dried tomatoes, sliced olives, toasted walnuts, crumbled feta cheese, chopped parsley and roasted vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and zucchini can be added for more flavor and nutrition.
Roasted Garlic Pesto with Cashews and Mint

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10 thoughts on “Roasted Garlic Pesto with Cashews and Mint”

  1. 5 stars
    I actually don’t like basil in pesto so this would really work for me. I love the sound of the lemon and mint with the garlic. Great flavour combos and I’m all for a quick and easy meal in the week. Thank you for sharing them with #CookBlogShare

  2. 5 stars
    I make pesto all the time and thought I’d tried pretty much every combination. But I haven’t yet tried parsley and mint together and especially not with chilli. It sounds intriguing and delicious.

    #CookBlogShare

    1. Thanks, Choclette! The chilli does make a difference and if you like spice, you should try it with the chilli. Please let me know how it turned out for you.

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