Pesto Tofu with Smashed Purple Potatoes and Charred Asparagus from Makini’s Vegan Kitchen

Skip the steak and make this savory meal instead. Packed with flavor and bright, spring ingredients, this marinated tofu recipe is a knockout for your next dinner party or a restaurant-quality meal at home. It’s delicious, filling, and won’t leave you missing the meat.



For the pesto tofu:

¼ cup (about 20 small to medium) roughly chopped garlic cloves

¼ cup finely chopped red onion

¼ cup roughly chopped kalamata olives

4 firmly packed cups fresh parsley leaves (from about 2 medium bunches)

¼ cup fresh oregano leaves

1 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

4 teaspoons paprika

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon cayenne (optional)

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Sea salt

1 to 2 pounds firm or extra-firm tofu (preferably your favorite local brand), cut lengthwise into five ½-inch-thick pieces

Olive oil cooking spray

1 cup pesto (store bought or homemade)


For the smashed purple potatoes:

1 pound (about 8) baby purple potatoes

¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

3 garlic cloves

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, rosemary, or thyme

Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon


For the charred asparagus:

1 bunch (1 to 1½ pounds) large asparagus, tough ends trimmed

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper




To make the tofu:

1 Put the garlic, onion, and olives in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped (it’s important to stop before the mixture turns to a smooth puree).

2 Add the parsley and oregano and pulse briefly, 1 to 2 seconds, until the herbs are also finely chopped but not pureed. Or, if working by hand, finely mince the ingredients with a sharp knife and combine in a small mixing bowl.

3 Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl. Add the oil, lime juice, vinegar, paprika, sugar, cayenne, and red pepper flakes (or more to taste) and stir until the sugar dissolves. Season to taste with salt.

4 Pour ¼ cup of this marinade into a shallow, medium baking pan, reserving the rest.

5 Heat a stovetop or outdoor grill to high heat.

6 Spray the tofu pieces evenly with cooking spray on both sides. Grill them for about 1 to 2 minutes on each side, flipping them with a long spatula, until distinct hash marks form.

7 Transfer them to the baking pan, setting them atop the marinade and pouring the reserved marinade over.

8 Cover the pan and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours (or up to overnight for more flavor).


To make the potatoes:

1 Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, and line a large sheet pan or cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper for easy cleanup.

2 Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and boil them until they’re fork-tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes.

3 Drizzle ¼ cup of the oil all over the prepared pan. Place the boiled potatoes on the sheet, leaving plenty of room between each one.

4 With a potato masher or the flat end of a spatula—or even your hands if the potatoes are cool enough—gently press down on each potato until the top gives way and the insides are lightly crushed. Rotate the pan 90 degrees and mash the potatoes again more forcefully, until they are slightly flattened. (The idea is to open up the potato enough to let in the flavors of the garlic and herbs.)

5 Brush the tops of each crushed potato generously with the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil and sprinkle with the garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

6 Bake the potatoes until they’re golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

7 Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the potatoes with the parsley, chives, and lemon zest and juice. Set aside.


To make the asparagus:

1 In a large bowl or on a baking sheet, toss the asparagus with the garlic and oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2 Heat a stovetop or outdoor grill to high heat.

3 Grill the asparagus for 1 to 3 minutes on each side, until they are bright green and still have a crunch.


Put it all together:

1 Heat a medium sauté pan or stovetop griddle over medium heat.

2 Remove the tofu slices from the marinade with a slotted spatula, reserving the marinade for later use.

3 Working in batches, cook the tofu for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until they’re heated through and crispy on the outside.

4 To serve, stack 2 potatoes near the center of each of 4 plates. Lean 2 tofu pieces against them, drizzle the tofu with pesto, and arrange 3 to 4 asparagus spears against the tofu.


Get the book!

Makini’s Vegan Kitchen by Makini Howell

Nationally renowned chef and entrepreneur Makini Howell shares her innovative plant-based recipes in this anniversary edition of the original Plum cookbook. These inspired recipes from one of the highest-ranked vegan fine-dining restaurants in the country are not only mouthwatering and hearty, but are also allergen-friendly and often gluten-free, soy-free, or both. Cooking vegan with Makini proves that living a meat-free life can include satisfying and tasty food. This classic cookbook offers more than 60 boldly flavored dishes for every mood and season, such as, Barbecue Oyster-Mushroom Sliders with Pickled Onions, Plum’s Smoky Mac, Quinoa Risotto with Panko-Fried Portobellos, Toasted Chocolate Bread with Cream Cheese Crème Fraîche, and much more!