This Basil Walnut Pesto recipe comes together in 15 minutes with just 6 ingredients. Great for pasta, sandwich spreads, and garnishing soups!
Pesto is deceptively easy to make and so tasty, you’ll wonder why you don’t make it more often.
Whether you stir it into mayonnaise for a sandwich, mix it in with cheese for a dip, or add it to your next creamy pasta, it’s rich and delicious and ready in no time at all.
What is Basil Pesto?
Traditional Genovese pesto is a basil-based sauce which originated in Genoa, Italy. Along with basil, it contains garlic, olive oil, a hard cheese such as parmesan, and pine nuts.
Since pine nuts are so expensive, I always use walnuts. Almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts work too.
How do I make Pesto?
Star by toasting unpeeled garlic cloves and walnuts to amp up their flavor (this is optional but recommended). Next, combine the garlic and nuts in a food processor.
Add basil, garlic, olive oil, and cheese. Blend until smooth and season to taste with salt and pepper.
How do you keep basil pesto from turning brown?
Since basil can easily turn brown when blitzed in a food processor or blender, I add parsley to my pesto. This ensures a bright green color no matter what.
Beyond that, oxygen turns pesto brown. You can prevent this by adding a small layer of olive oil to the jar of pesto before you put it in the refrigerator.
Can Pesto be frozen?
Basil Walnut Pesto is freezer-friendly! Pour into a jar and top with olive oil to keep air out. Be sure to leave enough space at the top of the jar for expansion. Thaw in the refrigerator when you’re ready to use it.
This is especially helpful if you grow basil in your garden. You can make pesto and freeze it for the cold winter months when you want a taste of summer!
Is Basil Pesto healthy?
Yes! Everyone has their own definition of “healthy,” but I like pesto because it is full of whole-food ingredients and can be modified depending on your diet.
Pesto is naturally gluten free, vegetarian, and keto.
To make pesto vegan or paleo, just leave out the cheese.
Basil Walnut Pesto
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves packed
- 1 cups fresh parsley packed (see note 1)
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup walnuts (see note 2)
- 3 cloves garlic (see note 3)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a food processor or blender, add basil, parsley, Parmesan cheese, walnuts, and garlic. Pulse until coarsely chopped, about 10 pulses.
- With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil and process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Parsley: Basil can easily turn brown in a food processor from bruising. Add a handful of fresh parsley to preserve the bright green color.
- Walnuts: For more flavor, toast the walnuts. In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat walnuts until browned and fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 2 to 5 minutes.
- Garlic: Roasting garlic trades its raw heat for a mellow taste and soft texture. To try this option, in a dry medium skillet over medium-low heat, toast unpeeled garlic cloves until spotty, dark brown, and slightly softened, about 20 to 25 minutes.
- Yield: This recipe makes 1 cup of pesto, enough to dress 1 pound of pasta.
- Storage: Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days (add a layer of olive oil on top to prevent oxidation).
- Freezer: Pour into a jar and top with olive oil to prevent oxidation. Leave enough head space at the top of the jar for expansion, then freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
- More nuts: Pesto is traditionally made with pine nuts, or you could substitute an equal amount of almonds, pecans, cashews, or even hazelnuts.
- Spicy: Add ¼ teaspoon or more crushed red pepper flakes to the food processor before blending.
- Kale pesto: Omit the parsley, decrease the basil to 1 cup, and add 2 cups packed kale leaves. Proceed with the recipe as written.
- Pesto roasted chicken: Rub pesto under and on the skin of your next whole bird, then roast to perfection.
- Pesto cheese bread: Slice a loaf of bread in half lengthwise, then spread a thick layer of pesto. Top with cheese, then finish in the oven or on the grill.
- Pesto cavatappi: This Noodles & Co. copycat dresses up pesto with a splash of cream and fresh tomatoes.