Basil Walnut Pesto Recipe

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A classic Italian basil walnut pesto sauce consisting of a rustic basil leaf puree, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and traditionally pine nuts. Though I mostly like to use walnuts or pine nuts, it can also be made with hazelnuts, pecans and even almonds. The perfect summer sauce for pasta, panini, pizza or to dress a tomato salad.

Basil Pine Nut Pesto Sauce

Basil Walnut Pesto

Pesto alla Genovese, an Italian sauce from Genoa Italy, traditionally made by hand using a mortar and pestle where leaf by leaf of fragrant Genoese basil gets crushed together with the toasted nuts. One by one. True story!
Over here in America though most of us use a small food processor, which is perfectly fine if you don’t over do it. Remember to use the grind / chop button instead of the puree setting so you can still get a nice rustic texture.
Fresh Basil Walnut Pesto Ingredients: basil, nuts, garlic, olive oil, lemon, parmesan.

Italian Pesto Ingredients Notes

  • Walnuts – toasting the nuts just a little bit ads that special nutty flavor, try not to skip that step and allow them to cool off completely to prevent browning the basil.
  • Olive oil – since this is a raw sauce you can use a nice extra virgin olive oil with a fruity aroma.
  • Cheese – authentic Genoese pesto contains Parmigiano-Reggianno cheese which is actually not vegetarian as it contains animal rennet. Good thing you can omit it entirely or use a plant based vegan parmesan like the Violife wedges which are amazing.
  • Garlic – it’s important to grate your garlic into a paste before adding to the sauce. This will tame it down a bit and nicely distribute its aroma.
  • Lemon – a fresh squeeze of lemon juice balances out the flavor of the pesto but also helps prevent oxidation so the basil won’t turn brown.
Basil Walnut Pesto sauce Ingredients

Recipe Tips + Variations

  • Storage – you can store pesto tightly covered in the fridge for up to a week. Long term it is best stored in the freezer in ice cubes trays covered with a thin layer of olive oil. Once frozen transfer the cubes to freezer bags for up to 6 months (preferably vacuum sealed so no air can get in to encourage oxidation).
  • Swaps – if you aren’t all that fond of basil you can replace it with baby kale, spinach or parsley, tough I will argue that by using parsley you are making chimichurri.
  • Spicy – If you also love your pesto with a little attitude just add in a good pinch of red chili flakes.

Walnut pesto ingredients in food processor

how to use basil walnut pesto

Basil Walnut / Pine Nut Pesto Sauce Bowls

5 from 1 vote

Basil Walnut Pesto Recipe

A classic Italian basil walnut pesto sauce consisting of a rustic basil leaf puree, garlic, olive oil and walnuts. It can be made with pine nuts, hazelnuts or almonds as well.
Print Recipe
Prep Time:10 minutes
Total Time:10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Genoese basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil or as needed
  • 3/4 cups walnuts or pine nuts lightly toasted and cooled
  • 2 cloves garlic grated
  • 1/3 cup parmigiano reggianno cheese (use pure vegetarian parmesan by Violife)
  • 1 squeeze lemon juice
  • the zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 pinch sea salt + more to taste

Instructions

  • Start by adding the nuts to a cold skillet. Turn on the heat and toast until lightly golden watching them closely to make sure they don't burn. Cool off completely.
  • In the bowl of a food processor buzz up the toasted walnuts with the basil leaves and olive oil until a rustic puree forms.
  • Transfer the sauce to a bowl and stir in the grated garlic, parmesan cheese, lemon zest and juice. 
  • Adjust seasonings to your taste with sea salt and more lemon juice. Serve promptly with pasta, pizza, sandwiches, salads, potatoes or panini.

Notes

  • Storage - you can store pesto tightly covered in the fridge for up to a week. Long term it is best stored in the freezer in ice cubes trays covered with a thin layer of olive oil. Once frozen transfer the cubes to freezer bags for up to 6 months (preferably vacuum sealed so no air can get in to encourage oxidation).
  • Swaps - if you aren't all that fond of basil you can replace it with baby kale, spinach or parsley, tough I will argue that by using parsley you are making chimichurri
  • Spicy - If you also love your pesto with a little attitude just add in a good pinch of red chili flakes.
  • Walnuts - toasting the nuts just a little bit ads that special nutty flavor, try not to skip that step and allow them to cool off completely to prevent browning the basil.

Nutrition

Calories: 420kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 44g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 13g | Monounsaturated Fat: 22g | Cholesterol: 6mg | Sodium: 145mg | Potassium: 146mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 703IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 144mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Italian sauce, pesto
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 420kcal
Author: Florentina

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One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    An exceptional recipe, my pesto looks beautifully bright and green and tastes fantastic even without Parmesan. It’s what I recall pesto tasting like in Italy