Introduction: Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes With Homemade Vegan Basil Pesto

About: Medical school graduate, homechef and food blogger. I use local, seasonal ingredients to create tasty and nutritious dishes.

In this recipe I will show you how to make a vegan Genoa - style pesto from scratch; further on I will use this delicious basil sauce to make some baked tomatoe stuffed with quinoa and spinach. These vegan baked tomatoes are hearty, delicious and so easy to make.

I wanted to make this recipe vegan and since vegan pesto is relatively difficult to find (at least in my area), I decided to make my own plant-based Genoa - style pesto. For this version I used basil from my herb garden, garlic, salt, pine nuts, nutritional yeast and olive oil. I've simply crushed the ingredients mentioned above in a mortar and my creamy pesto was ready.

For this recipe I’ve picked some ripe tomatoes from my veggie garden, I removed their cores, I stuffed their cavities with a vegan pesto, spinach and quinoa mixture and and I baked them in the oven just until wrinkled. The result was such a rustic entree and yet so elegant. The pesto quinoa stuffing tastes amazing by itself but combined with the acidity of the tomatoes, it gets somehow even better.

Flavorful, healthy and so satisfying!

The recipe:

Step 1: Prepare the Ingredients for the Genoa - Style Pesto

This step is optional. I chose to make my own vegan Genoa - style Pesto since a plant - based version of this sauce is quite difficult to find in my area. This homemade version turns out absolutely delicious each and every time and it's budget-friendly, too.

But if you find the homemade pesto too time consuming or you don't necessarily want this recipe to be completely vegan, you can use regular store - bought Pesto alla Genovese.

Ingredients :

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil (45ml)
  • 25g organic basil leaves (1 cup)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 Tbsp pine nuts (10g)
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast (5g)
  • 1/4 tsp salt


  • a mortar and a pestle (you can also use a food processor)
  • a colander
  • paper towels


  • tsp = teaspoon
  • Tbsp = tablespoon

Step 2: Prepare the Ingredients for the Stuffed Tomatoes

Ingredients (for 4 servings):

  • 8 medium ripe tomatoes
  • 60g uncooked quinoa
  • 250ml vegetable soup (divided)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion (75g)
  • 150g fresh spinach
  • 4 Tbsp vegan pesto


  • a bowl
  • a cutting board
  • a sharp knife
  • paper towels
  • a skillet
  • a ceramic tray


  • tsp = teaspoon
  • Tbsp = tablespoon

Step 3: Prepare the Genoa - Style Pesto

The mortar and pestle version:

1. Wash the basil. Wash the basil leaves in cold water and dry them on a paper towel but don’t rub them.

2. Crush the garlic. In the mortar crush the clove of garlic with about 1/4 tsp of salt until you form a paste.

3. Add the basil. Add half the basil (or less, it depends on how big your mortar is), then grind with a light circular movement, crushing the basil against the sides and turning the mortar. Add the remaining basil and proceed the same.

4. Add the olive oil. Pour in the olive oil and mix gently with the pestle to form a thick sauce.

5. Add the pine nuts. Add the pine nuts and using the pestle grind into the paste.

6. Add the nutritional yeast. Add the nutritional yeast and mix until just combined.

7. Set aside.

The food processor version:

1.In the bowl of a food processor, combine basil, olive oil, pine nuts, minced garlic, and a pinch of salt and process until creamy.

2. Transfer to a bowl and mix in nutritional yeast.

Step 4: Cook the Quinoa

Place the quinoa in a strainer and rinse it with cold water for about 1 minute. Drain it very well. Place quinoa in a sauce pan, add 160 ml vegetable soup and 1/4 tsp sea salt and bring to a boil on high heat (for cooking my quinoa I use the 1:2 ratio, 1 part quinoa and 2 parts liquid, water or vegetable soup).

When the soup begins to boil, cover with a lid and reduce the heat to minimum. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let it stand covered for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, fluff it with a fork.

Step 5: Cook the Spinach

Peel the onion and chop it finely.

Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet and sautee the onion over low heat until translucent (about 5 minutes).

Wash the spinach in cold water and dry it on a paper towel. Place the chopped spinach in the skillet, cover with a lid, and sautee it until wilted (for about 5 minutes). Leave aside uncovered.

Step 6: Prepare the Tomatoes

Slice the bottom off the tomatoes (about 3 mm). This step is optional but cutting the bottom flat gives them stability.

Slice the tops off the tomatoes (about 2 cm) and set aside.

Scoop out the seeds and pulp from the tomatoes with a teaspoon, but be careful not to cut through to the base.

Proceed the same with the rest of the tomatoes.

Step 7: Season the Stuffing and Stuff the Tomatoes

Add 4 Tbsp of basil pesto to the quinoa and spinach skillet and give it a stir.

Season the stuffing with salt and pepper.

Place the tomatoes in a ceramic tray and season well with salt and pepper. Stuff each tomato with about 1 Tbsp of quinoa mixture (or more, depending on the size of the tomato), making sure you push the stuffing in the cavity with your fingers.

Place the tomato in the tray and cover it with its top.

Step 8: Baking, Serving and Leftovers

Baking. Place about 6 Tbsp of vegetable soup in the tray and place the tray in the preheated oven. Bake at 200C / 400F (gas mark 6) for 20 minutes (or until the tomatoes are soft and wrinkly).

Serving & Leftovers. I served my tomatoes warm with a slice of homemade bread and some pesto alla genovese. Place the leftovers (if any) in a bowl, cover with cling film and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Store the basil pesto an airtight container (or in a small bowl cling with cling film). Refrigerated, it will keep up to one week. Before using it, make sure you give it a stir.


  1. Even though Pesto Genovese and Pesto alla Genovese (Genoa - style pesto) might look identical, they aren't in fact the same product. Pesto Genovese is D.O.P.-protected, meaning that in Italy and Europe, only sauces made in this precise way, and with these ingredients, can even call themselves pesto genovese. The ingredients must include D.O.P. basil from Genoa, for example, because the soil and climate in that particular area gives the basil a flavor that’s impossible to replicate elsewhere. On the other hand although similar to the traditional version, Pesto alla genovese allows a few swaps for financial or dietary purposes.
  2. Pesto alla Genovese is traditionally served with trofie. Other delicious ways to enjoy your fresh batch of pesto might include: pizza, bruschetta, sanwiches, omelets, risotto, gnocchi.
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