Basil Walnut Pesto

Tested & Perfected Recipes

pesto

One of my favorite things about summer cooking is stepping out my back door to pick fresh herbs from my vegetable garden. It always amazes me how the tiny seedlings I impatiently wait for to sprout in May grow into more herbs than I can possibly use up in August.

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As you can see, my basil plants are two feet tall, which means it’s time to make pesto! (You can also see they need some attention — it’s best to pinch the flowers off to keep the leaves growing.)

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This is a classic recipe for Italian basil pesto. The only difference is that I use walnuts instead of more traditional pine nuts. This is because in recent years an increasing number of people (including myself) have fallen prey to a bizarre problem with pine nuts called Pine Mouth Syndrome — a bitter, metallic taste in the mouth that develops a day or two after eating pine nuts. It can last for weeks and make eating or drinking anything very unpleasant. Several food writers have written about it, and since it also happened to me, I thought it was worth mentioning. There is some evidence that the suspect nuts come from China but no one knows for sure. In any case, I’ve sworn off pine nuts for a while.

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To begin, combine the walnuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.

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Add the basil leaves, salt and pepper.

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Process until finely chopped.

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Then, with the food processor running, add the olive oil through the feed tube in a steady stream. Be sure to use good quality olive oil; it makes a big difference.

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Add the Parmesan cheese and process again.

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That’s your pesto! Try it on pasta, potatoes, grilled meats, sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, or vegetable soup (coming soon!).

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My Recipe Videos

Basil Walnut Pesto

Servings: Makes about 1-1/4 cups (about 10 servings)
Total Time: 15 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups gently packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, best quality such as Lucini or Colavita

Instructions

  1. Place the walnuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until coarsely chopped, about 10 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper and process until mixture resembles a paste, about 1 minute. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly blended. Add the Parmesan and process a minute more. Use pesto immediately or store in a tightly sealed jar or air-tight plastic container, covered with a thin layer of olive oil (this seals out the air and prevents the pesto from oxidizing, which would turn it an ugly brown color). It will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.
  2. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: Pesto can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 6 months. You can also divide your prepared pesto into the compartments of an ice cube tray and freeze. Once it’s frozen, remove the pesto cubes from the tray and put a sealable plastic bag or airtight container. You can add the defrosted pesto cubes to soups, pasta dishes, eggs, sandwiches, and potatoes.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 2 Tbsp.
  • Calories: 159
  • Fat: 17 g
  • Saturated fat: 3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 1 g
  • Sugar: 0 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 3 g
  • Sodium: 161 mg
  • Cholesterol: 4 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Reviews & Comments

  • I have been meaning to write this review all summer, each time I make this pesto. I had never made pesto before and this recipe is both simple and delicious! It takes minutes to throw together and tastes wonderful on pasta and chicken. Thanks for another keeper!!

    • — Nora on October 11, 2018
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  • I’ve been making Basil Pesto for years, BUT this recipe makes the very BEST Pesto. I love it on my breakfast sandwich of English muffin, pesto, scrambled egg and roasted bell pepper.

    • — Marci Cooke on October 4, 2018
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  • This recipe is how I discovered once upon a chef! It’s my go to pesto recipe. I like the tip about freezing the pesto without adding the cheese. I keep half in the refrigerator and half in the freezer and it never turns brown.

    • — Gail on October 4, 2018
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  • Made this last night to throw on some pasta (I did farfalle with tomatoes and chicken). My husband told me it’s the best thing I’ve ever made. So easy and delicious!

    • — Hilary on September 19, 2018
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  • PERFECT!! The ONLY thing I changed was the times it took to process….was much quicker than stated. Used my fresh basil from the garden and can’t get over how delicious this is. I even finger swiped the food processor bowl 😀 THANKYOU

    • — Lori Ingle on August 21, 2018
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  • The bitterness some people have experienced is the garlic. I’ve made this with sharp garlic and milder garlic. My first time screamed “bitter,” but I knew at once what happened. I bought fresher garlic.

    • — Nancy Knowles on June 25, 2018
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  • Delicious. I add just a dash of lemon for some freshness.

    • — Shirley A Vasta on June 23, 2018
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  • I had extra basil from another recipe so gave this a try. I put it on chicken breasts and baked them-so good the walnuts worked very well. I stole an idea from your shrimp and feta recipe and added cherry tomatoes for the last 20 minutes and it worked quite well. We enjoyed the chicken leftovers on salad!

    • — Owen on March 8, 2018
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  • I loved this recipe, so easy and so delicious…. I have loads of basic and needed a good pesto recipe. I make it every week until my basil freezes.. ): I’m going to make your Pesto Shrimp tonight, will let you know later about it.

    • — Tammy on September 14, 2017
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  • Loved this I used pecans instead of walnuts. It was delicious. Just another option if Walnuts are too bitter for you. I’m glad I found your sites. It’s beautiful and the other recipes look amazing. Hope to try another one soon.

    • — BYH on August 17, 2017
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  • In regards to the metallic taste in your mouth after eating pine nuts from china: if they are toasted first there should not be that taste. A friend of mine is a specialty food sales rep for a spice and nut company and that is what she told me. I find it does work.

    • — Vanessa Romero on July 16, 2017
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  • I bought a nice Walnut Olive Oil at a specialty store and have been looking for a recipe to use it in. I’d probably roast the walnuts first to give them a little more nuttiness.

    What do y’all think about using that oil? Maybe I could put the parmesan cheeese in before the oil and then just make up a tiny bit with the special oil….check taste before adding to the entire batch.

    • — Jeanne on July 15, 2017
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    • I think that sounds like a good way to go, Jeanne. I’d love to hear how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on July 17, 2017
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  • This is my go to spot for recipes, I’ve always been so pleased with how everything turned out until now. I know it’s not the recipe but rather my ingredients, however, this was inedibly bitter, went right in the garbage. Not sure what caused the bitterness? I’d like to try again, perhaps someone could shed light on what could have caused the bitterness and if there is any ingredient that could fix it in case it happens again?

    • — Julie on July 4, 2017
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    • Sorry to hear you had a problem with this Julie! It definitely should not taste bitter– Any chance the nuts could have been spoiled or burnt? Also, you used walnuts (and not pine nuts)?

      • — Jenn on July 4, 2017
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      • Hi Jen! No, I used brand new walnuts that tasted good. I’ll try again. Thank you for responding, so kind of you. I looove your site and recipes and I know this one is no exception. I am so looking forward to your cookbook next spring. Happy 4th!

        • — Julie on July 4, 2017
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    • Hi there, Jenn’s pesto recipe is my go to. I have made it a few times without a problem, however I ran into an issue with the bitterness the last time I made it. My issue was the olive oil, as I found. I learned that by adding 1/4 cup of water or less, just enough to make a paste, while the ingredients (NOT the olive oil) are in the food processor stage. Once you get the ingredients to a paste like consistency, put the pesto in a bowl and mix in by hand the olive oil! This worked for me, I hope it solves the problem for you.

      • — Angie on July 4, 2017
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      • Thank you! Appreciate it.

        • — Julie on July 6, 2017
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    • Some olive oils are bitter. I would taste everything before you put it in, just in case.

      • — Vicki Frederick on July 4, 2017
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  • hi Jenn, Love pesto and excited to try your recipe. Question for you – have you tried pistachios? I read this is the sicilian version. Debating them or walnuts and curious if you’ve tried both. Thanks!

    • — Janet on May 6, 2017
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    • Hi Janet, I’ve used both walnuts and pistachios and both are delicious; you can’t really go wrong!

      • — Jenn on May 6, 2017
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  • I’m planning to make this tonight! I’m curious if you use raw walnuts or if you toast them first? Does it make a difference? Thanks!

    • — El on April 10, 2017
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    • El, I usually just throw them in raw, but they would be delicious toasted!

      • — Jenn on April 11, 2017
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  • Would you make any adjustments when omitting the cheese, to boost flavor? I need the pesto to be both gluten and dairy free. Pls cfm, thanks!

    • — Kate on April 9, 2017
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    • Hi Kate, while I’ve never used it, I know a lot of people use nutritional yeast in place of cheese in a variety of recipes, so you may want to try that. If not, you may want to add a bit more salt to the pesto as the cheese adds a nice salty flavor.

      • — Jenn on April 11, 2017
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  • If you were making pesto pasta, would you just pour the room temperature pesto over the hot pasta, or would you heat up the pesto?

    • — Stacey on March 30, 2017
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    • No need to heat it up, Stacey – I’d pour it over the hot pasta in a pan (with a little bit of the pasta cooking water) and cook a few minutes to blend the flavors.

      • — Jenn on March 30, 2017
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      • I made it last night and your suggestion worked perfectly!! Thank you so much for the tip. It was delicious!

        • — Stacey on April 1, 2017
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  • Do you think you could use this pesto sauce recipe over pasta?

    • — Stacey on March 28, 2017
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    • Definitely!

      • — Jenn on March 28, 2017
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  • Hi Jen – your recipes are incredible! One question on this, if I wanted to make a “creamy pesto” and add some half and half, would that work here?

    • — Haley on January 27, 2017
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    • Hi Haley, I haven’t tried this before, but you could try replacing half the oil with 1/2 & 1/2. I’d love to hear how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on January 29, 2017
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  • You can also freeze it… I have and it lasts for at least a year.

    • — Susan on October 29, 2016
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  • How much pasta will this recipe dress?

    • — Sally on September 25, 2016
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    • Good question Sally– maybe about 1 1/2 pounds of pasta (but it depends upon how “pesto-y” you want it). I’d suggest starting with a pound as any leftovers are also delicious on roasted veggies and potatoes, mixed into soup, or just spread on crackers.

      • — Jenn on September 26, 2016
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  • What type of walnut? Black oe English??
    Thank you.

    • — Joy Congleton on September 24, 2016
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    • English walnuts will work best here. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on September 24, 2016
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  • Made this last week and it was wonderful! I unfortunately cannot remember how much garlic I put in it and the bulbs that I have now have what I would describe as “huge” cloves. How much would you say a “large” garlic clove coarsely chopped is in teaspoons?

    • — Jan Prows on September 11, 2016
    • Reply
    • Hi Jan, 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic is the equivalent of about 2 average-sized cloves, so I’d just use your judgment based on how strong a garlic flavor you like.

      • — Jenn on September 11, 2016
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  • Once again my pesto came out incredibly bitter. Inedibly so. What have I done wrong? Followed precisely. Any ideas?

    • — Dawn on August 12, 2016
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    • Hi Dawn, This definitely shouldn’t taste bitter! Could the cheese have been bad, by any chance? Also, you used walnuts (and not pine nuts)?

      • — Jenn on August 13, 2016
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    • Mine was also a bit bitter, I’m thinking the basil wasnt as fresh as possible.

      • — LYNN on February 4, 2017
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  • Hi,
    This is a classic recipe; I came looking for ratios. I ended up making a 20X recipe —- it freezes well! I make a couple additions to this pesto. In the basic amounts there, I would use juice from a 1/2 lemon. This helps emulsify the pesto, and like salad dressings, emulsification is a good thing. Also, I use additional pepper — in this batch, I used 1/3 black (Tellicherry) pepper, 1/3 pink, and 1/3 cubeb berries. If you don’t know what cubeb berries (pepper) are, look it up and get some! You and your guests will appreciate it!

    • — Geoffrey Bove on August 10, 2016
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  • Lovely recipe! The blender was on the fritz so I had to do all the chopping by hand but I frankly like walnuts more than pine nuts so this recipe was perfect for me

    • — Gabriella on August 5, 2016
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  • I just made this for the first time ever and WOW! Super easy and soooo delish! I actually don’t have a good processor, so I made it in my Bullet and it came out great! I added a couple tablespoons of lemon juice, since the bullet really emulsified it, it seemed to need more liquid. Delish! Thank you for posting this recipe!!

    • — Sheila on July 10, 2016
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  • Why do I not see the recipe?

    • — Rick on June 5, 2016
    • Reply
    • Hi Rick, I’m sorry you’re having a problem viewing the recipe. Please try this link.

      • — Jenn on June 6, 2016
      • Reply
  • This pesto is fabulous! It is the perfect balance of flavors. As usual, I followed your recipe exactly (even S&P amounts) and the results were superb. Lunch was a grilled chicken panini dressed with the pesto; supper is going to be homemade pizza with the pesto spread on the crust. My only hope is there will be enough left for another meal tomorrow! Thanks for yet another go-to recipe that I will be making again and again!

    • — Becky on April 30, 2016
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  • Hi Jenn,

    I recently started eating pesto and LOVE it! (I might be a little obsessive right now!) I am wondering, could you blend this into sour cream or mayo or cream cheese to make a dip?

    • — MARY on April 16, 2016
    • Reply
    • Sure Mary, I think that would work. If you’re making a dip, I’d go with the sour cream, cream cheese or even Greek yogurt. I’d use the mayo if you plan to use it more as a spread. Would love to know how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on April 16, 2016
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  • If I’m understanding your question, you’re asking why Parmesan cheese can’t be frozen. It actually can– while it’s best fresh and the taste and texture will be a bit different when you defrost it, you can freeze it.

    • — Jenn on January 21, 2016
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  • My son and I Made the basil walnut pesto using basil that he grew this summer as part of a Boy Scout merit badge requirement. Made exactly according to your recipe. A lovely Shabbat dinner with wild salmon and pesto fettuccine! Well received by the whole family! Thank you!

    • — Deborah on September 13, 2015
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  • I just tried to print the recipe and for some reason, it will not print. I just get a blank page. The same thing happened with another recipe from this site. Is something going on with the site? I am able to print from other sites.

    • — Vicki Frederick on July 28, 2015
    • Reply
    • Hi Vicki, Are you clicking on the print tab?

      • — Jenn on August 3, 2015
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  • I didn’t see the quantities of the ingredients. How much walnuts etc.

    • — Tara Verkerk on July 4, 2015
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    • Hi Tara, Scroll down to the bottom for the recipe or click on the “recipe” tab on the top. Enjoy 🙂

      • — Jenn on July 6, 2015
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  • Heavenly! I just made it – and made my husband a very happy man 🙂

    • — Vicki Frederick on September 29, 2014
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  • Thank you for sharing this recipe using walnuts. I also have Pine Mouth and have found that I can eat Mediterranean pine nuts but not Asian ones. I have to order them, as they are very hard to find in stores. I can’t wait to try your recipe!

    • — Vicki Frederick on September 28, 2014
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  • why did my pesto turn out grainy and not smooth like yours? do i need to process more?

    • — chris on September 23, 2014
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    • Hi Chris, Yes, just keep processing until smooth.

      • — Jenn on September 23, 2014
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  • Thank you for this recipe. After years of joyfully eating pine nuts I had several bouts of Pine Mouth before I realized the culprit. I find it strange that quite suddenly many people have it. Hopefully it is something to do with the source and we won’t have to swear of pignolas forever. In the meantime walnut pesto will comfort me.

    • — Collette on August 29, 2014
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  • For the first time I grew a herb garden and have lots of fresh basil. I used this for your recipe for grilled pesto shrimp and it was really yummy.

    • — DonnaA on August 3, 2014
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  • I just made this pesto recipe and as I’m typing enjoying it with my whole grain pasta, delicious! Can’t wait to substitute my pizza sauce with the pesto, should be amazing! Thanks for sharing Jenn 🙂

    • — Angie on July 31, 2014
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  • Having read this I thought it was extremely informative. I
    appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this article together.
    I once again find myself personally spending a
    significant amount of time both reading and leaving comments.
    But so what, it was still worthwhile!

  • I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!!
    I absolutely loved every bit of it. I’ve got you saved as a favorite to check out new things you post…

  • Do you have any video of that? I’d want to find out more details.

  • This is the only recipe I use for pesto. I’ve made it many, many times. Last year I froze enough to last all winter. My basil crop has reached the point this year that I need to start making pesto again. I always reduce the olive oil in this recipe to 1/2 cup (instead of 2/3 cup) for a less oily result. I love to use a dollop of pesto in a quiche or spread a little on sandwiches instead of mayo.

    • — IndianaAnna on June 29, 2014
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  • Even without the metallic taste condition you describe, the price of pine nuts leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Thanks for the recipe.

    • — Sarah Wersan on December 28, 2013
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  • Made two big batches with my end of season basil; one with walnuts and one with pine nuts. I put the cooled pesto into ice cube trays. After they froze solid, I transferred the cubes into ziploc freezer bags. This makes them super easy to pull out and toss into a pan as needed.

    • — Paula on November 7, 2013
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  • This was a great recipe, thanks! I have a pine nut allergy (oddly, the only nut I am allergic to and it is NOT fun!) but LOVE pesto and i really enjoyed this

    • — Susan on September 19, 2013
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  • Will try today! Looks fantastic.

  • Great idea,had it with pasta and chicken yummm!

    • — Jules on April 25, 2013
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  • My local Wegman’s stopped carrying pine nuts in their bulk food aisle because of problems with their supply and cases of pine mouth syndrome being reported.

    I’m not a fan of walnuts, but I’ve used almonds and pistachios and it worked wonderfully. As Becca mentioned, blanching whatever greens then shocking them in ice water will keep the color vibrant for days in the fridge.

    • — Winston on March 9, 2013
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  • Thanks for your discription of how. Living in Phoenix AZ, its mid november, and this could be the last batch of the year. Several lessons have been learned, comments are welcomed. Full sun? This year some of my plants were in the pepper bed getting sun only till noon, they did better in the heavy heat, so I made them all morning sun only, until the temps dropped. I add hot peppers, and add sugar to balance the bitterness. Also use a variety of basils, including Thai, Greek, Lemon, and several varieties of Sweet. My freezer is full of pesto cubes. Being end of seaon, this time I will separate varieties.

    • — Lyle on November 18, 2012
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  • Tried it since I love so many of your recipes, but must confess… I prefer using pine nuts to walnuts. Love to eat the pesta tossed with orzo… great, fast & easy side!

    • — Cherie on October 2, 2012
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  • Everyone should know about this tip. If you don’t plan to use all your pesto quickly, i.e. freezing it, blanching the basil leaves for about 30 seconds in boiling water will keep the pesto a vibrant green color. Before blending the pesto ingredients, blanch the basil leaves, take them out of the boiling water and run them under cool water to stop the cooking and then add to the food processor as the recipe directs. This really works and keeps pesto a nice fresh green color, even after freezing and defrosting.

    • — Becca J on October 2, 2012
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  • I never liked pesto, but this recipe has changed my mind. Even my boys will eat it over pasta. Wonderful recipe–thank you!!

    • — Renee H on June 20, 2012
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  • Pesto is one of my wife’s favorite flavors. This came out fantastic. We can’t wait to use it on different foods.

    • — Mike on June 20, 2012
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  • This turned out great, thank you for sharing.

    • — Carissa on May 22, 2012
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  • Walnuts are a great sub. for pignoli. I’m going to have to try this!!

    • — TJ on May 19, 2012
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  • a great idea. i never thought to sub walnuts for pignola nuts.

    • — amy marantino on May 15, 2012
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  • Walnuts were a great sub for pine nuts.

    • — meredith Lovelss on May 15, 2012
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  • Heading out to plant my basil seeds right now, with this dish as an inspiration! Loved serving this, as you suggested, drizzled over the summer vegetable soup.

    • — Julie on May 15, 2012
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  • This looks good. This is one of my favorite thing. I love this! This is very easy to make and a great.

    How to make the perfect basil pesto?

  • Hi, Just made your walnut pesto! Delicious. Really am going to enjoy this with veggies or pasta…can’t decide which.

    Donna

    • — Donna Lee on December 21, 2011
    • Reply
  • Ashlynn Deal

    I value the article post.Much thanks again. Fantastic.

  • Just got a bunch of purple basil from our CSA and wasn’t sure what to do with it so figured I would give this a try. Thanks!

    • — Jenn on September 17, 2011
    • Reply
  • I also grow herbs and my basil was gorgeous this year! (live in Atlanta, GA) I have made about 5 quarts of pesto so far this summer. I also use walnuts instead of pine nuts, but it is mainly due to the difference in COST. A similar recipe was on The Barefoot Contessa on Food TV…so cheers to you and thanks for sharing!

  • I read that the problem with pine nuts was from the pine nuts from China, not the USA. You’ve got to be careful!

    • — Patti on August 28, 2011
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  • And walnuts are much cheaper than pine nuts anyway. Thanks for the recipe.

    • — Marilyn Sullivan on August 25, 2011
    • Reply
  • This looks good. My husband loves walnuts. I’m still using pesto I froze last summer. I’ve never heard of pine mouth syndrome. It sounds awful. I do check to see where the pine nuts I purchase are from. We have some in our grocery that are from a local area in Texas. I checked one of the popular Italian brands and they are actually from China, which surprised me.

    • — Danita on August 25, 2011
    • Reply

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