This genius nut-free pesto uses roasted chickpeas for texture and flavor.

When it comes to creating the perfect Traditional Farm-Fried Steaks & Gravy, the procedure is just as important as the ingredients. The delicate balance of flavors and textures, as well as the patience required for the gravy’s slow simmering, all add to the magnificent final product.

The meal exemplifies emotions, traditions, and culinary skills. The secret ingredient is not mentioned in recipes; rather, love and tradition infuse the preparation, lifting it above the level of a meal. It’s about carrying on an age-old tradition while savoring heartfelt rustic flavors.
Chef Douglass Williams improves the flavor of his pesto by adding roasted chickpeas as a secret ingredient. Douglas Williams, the 2020 F&W Best New Chef from Mida in Boston, has invented a nut-free basil pesto recipe. Roasted chickpeas are used as a substitute for pine nuts, giving the sauce a satisfying, nutty flavor and a sense of smoothness.

“I am fond of this dish due to its extensive options for personalization and adaptability when preparing the nut-free pesto at home,” she says. “It is of great significance to me that individuals who have nut allergies can enjoy the delightful texture and flavor of this pesto, considering the large number of people who are unable to consume nuts.” This recipe seeks to encourage a transforming experience, not only in terms of the food consumed, but also in the manner in which it is prepared: by oneself or for others, without fear or concern, with a sense of liberty and self-confidence.

This genius nut-free pesto uses roasted chickpeas for texture and flavor.


The pesto acquires a little spiciness with the addition of fresh serrano pepper. Williams likes to use this pesto as a covering for homemade orecchiette pasta, however high-quality store-bought orecchiette or other pasta shapes can also be used well. The nut-free pesto is as delectable when paired with toast, baked chicken thighs, green beans, in a soba noodle salad, or any other dish where you savor the taste of pesto.

Do chickpeas belong to the lentil family?
Chickpeas and lentils belong to the legume family. Nevertheless, chickpeas surpass lentils in size, possess a harder texture, and often require a longer cooking time. This pesto is well-balanced, owing to the addition of a finely chopped serrano chile, which provides a subtle spiciness to the pesto that does not include nuts. To achieve a pesto with a less intense spiciness, you can exclude the seeds and inner membrane of the chili, as it is where the heat is concentrated. Alternatively, you may choose to exclude the chile altogether.


The nut-free pesto was specifically crafted for our Homemade Orecchiette, however high-quality store-bought orecchiette can also be used.

Suggested wine pairing

We suggest pairing this herbaceous and slightly earthy, nut-free pesto with a delicately herbal Tuscan white wine such as Poggio al Tesoro Solosole Vermentino.


  • 2/3 cup drained canned chickpeas, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup), plus more for serving
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 small serrano chile, seeded, if desired, and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for pasta water
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Homemade Orecchiette (see above for recipe) or 1 pound high-quality store-bought orecchiette


Set the oven temperature to 325°F. Distribute chickpeas evenly on a small baking sheet with raised edges. Continue baking until the chickpeas have a dry outside but a creamy inside, which should take around 30 to 35 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

step 2
In a food processor, blend together chickpeas, basil, oil, Parmesan, garlic, chile, salt, and pepper. Continue processing until the mixture reaches a smooth and creamy consistency, and the chickpeas are finely minced. This should take around 30 seconds. Remember to pause and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Place the ingredients into a large basin that can withstand high temperatures.

This genius nut-free pesto uses roasted chickpeas for texture and flavor.

In a large saucepan, heat a considerable amount of water and add salt, stirring until thoroughly dissolved. Place orecchiette (or whichever pasta you want) in a pot of boiling water. Continuously mix the Homemade Orecchiette for 2 to 3 minutes, or according to the package instructions, until it is firm and slightly chewy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the orecchiette pasta to the pesto sauce bowl. Incorporate 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid and mix until a creamy sauce envelops the orecchiette, which should take around 30 seconds. If necessary, add 2 tablespoons of extra cooking liquid at a time to dilute the sauce. Divide the orecchiette evenly among four bowls, and, if desired, garnish with additional Parmesan.

In the area of culinary inventiveness, a breakthrough take on conventional pesto has developed, providing a nut-free alternative based on the powerful essence of roasted chickpeas. This creative pesto not only caters to individuals with nut allergies, but it also adds a lovely texture and depth of taste, demonstrating the versatility of this simple legume. As we delve into the complexities of this ingenious nut-free pesto, we discover the processes, ingredients, and culinary reasoning behind this unique take on a classic sauce.

The Evolution of Pesto:

This genius nut-free pesto uses roasted chickpeas for texture and flavor.

Pesto, originating from the Liguria region of Italy, has long been celebrated for its vibrant green hue and the marriage of fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. This traditional combination, with its aromatic and savory profile, has found its way into countless pasta dishes, salads, and sandwiches, becoming a staple in global cuisine.

This genius nut-free pesto uses roasted chickpeas for texture and flavor.

However, the rise of dietary preferences, allergies, and the quest for culinary innovation has spurred the evolution of pesto recipes. The incorporation of various ingredients like spinach, kale, or sun-dried tomatoes has become commonplace, diversifying the flavor palette of this beloved sauce. In this vein, the substitution of roasted chickpeas for traditional nuts stands as a testament to the limitless possibilities within the culinary world.

Ingredients and Techniques:

  1. Roasted Chickpeas: The cornerstone of this nut-free pesto is the roasted chickpeas, which serve a dual purpose. Firstly, they contribute a distinct texture, creating a pesto with a delightful crunch reminiscent of traditional pine nuts. Secondly, the roasted chickpeas infuse the sauce with a robust, nutty flavor profile, making them an excellent stand-in for those with nut allergies.
  2. Fresh Basil: The aromatic essence of fresh basil remains a crucial component, providing the pesto with its characteristic green color and herbaceous notes. The combination of basil with roasted chickpeas creates a dynamic flavor synergy that elevates the overall taste.
  3. Garlic: A fundamental element in any pesto, garlic adds a pungent kick that enhances the depth of flavor. Its inclusion, when balanced with the other ingredients, contributes to the sauce’s savory and aromatic qualities.
  4. Parmesan Cheese: Parmesan cheese, with its salty and umami-rich profile, adds a layer of complexity to the pesto. The cheese binds the ingredients together, lending a creamy consistency while imparting a savory depth that complements the roasted chickpeas.
  5. Olive Oil: The unifying agent, olive oil, not only serves as a medium for blending but also imparts a luxurious silkiness to the pesto. Its fruity and robust notes tie the diverse flavors together, creating a harmonious sauce.
  6. Lemon Juice: A touch of fresh lemon juice provides a zesty brightness, cutting through the richness of the roasted chickpeas and cheese. This element adds a refreshing quality, enhancing the overall balance of the pesto.

The Culinary Rationale:

This genius nut-free pesto uses roasted chickpeas for texture and flavor.

  1. Nut-Free Adaptation: The primary motivation behind this ingenious pesto variation is to offer a nut-free alternative without compromising on texture or flavor. By replacing traditional nuts with roasted chickpeas, the sauce becomes accessible to individuals with nut allergies while introducing a unique and satisfying crunch.
  2. Utilizing Roasted Chickpeas: Roasting chickpeas not only imparts a delightful crunch but also intensifies their nutty flavor. This transformation elevates the pesto, creating a distinctive profile that pays homage to traditional recipes while forging new culinary paths.
  3. Diversity in Texture: The inclusion of roasted chickpeas introduces a textured element that sets this pesto apart from its traditional counterpart. The juxtaposition of the smooth basil, creamy cheese, and crunchy chickpeas adds depth, making each bite a sensorial experience.
  4. Flavor Synergy: The combination of fresh basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and roasted chickpeas forms a flavor synergy that is both complex and harmonious. The nutty undertones of the chickpeas seamlessly integrate with the herbaceous freshness of basil, creating a well-rounded and satisfying pesto.
  5. Versatility in Application: This nut-free pesto’s adaptability extends beyond pasta dishes. It can be employed as a spread on sandwiches, a dip for crudites, or a topping for grilled meats. The versatility of the sauce makes it a valuable addition to any culinary repertoire.


In terms of culinary innovation, the clever nut-free pesto made with roasted chickpeas is a shining example of modifying ancient recipes to meet modern needs. This ingenious tweak elevates the simple chickpea to a starring role, not only accommodating nut allergies but also introducing a wonderful crunch and subtle flavor profile. As we relish each spoonful of this pesto, we honor the creative spirit that drives the culinary world forward, demonstrating that even the most beloved classics can be reinterpreted with originality and flair.

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