Basil Walnut Pesto

basil walnut pesto“Pasta Night” began after my friends and I learned how to make pasta from scratch (ambitious, I know) at a cooking class and it has since become an annual tradition. The girls usually make a mess of the kitchen as we attempt to crank out fresh pasta while the guys eat all the appetizers and drink beer while watching whatever game happens to be on. Then we all sit down to a home-cooked meal (with lots of wine) and laugh the night away. I volunteered to make pesto and brought it to our very first pasta night. Since then, pesto has been a pasta night menu staple.

My mom always made pesto with fresh basil from our garden, and at some point over the years she started using walnuts instead of pine nuts. I love the taste and consistency with the walnuts, plus they’re a lot easier to find in the supermarket so I swapped out the pine nuts from Giada’s recipe in her ‘Everyday Italian’ cookbook.

As with everything in life, moderation is the key and in this case, a little pesto goes a long way. While this recipe was originally intended as a sauce over pasta (Giada says so), the freshness of the basil combined with the garlicky bite and salty creaminess from the Parmesan makes pesto delicious on just about everything. I love pesto as a topping for spaghetti squash, chicken or fish…just a tablespoon brightens up any main course while keeping the calories under control!
basil walnut pesto

Pesto freezes well, so I like to make a double batch and freeze it in an ice-cube tray to get perfect portions whenever you need them. From-scratch pesto is SO much better than store-bought and it’s super easy to make it yourself! I can’t wait for our next pasta night…

Basil Walnut Pesto
Yield: about 1 cup or 16 servings|Serving Size = 1 Tbsp
86 calories|1g carbs|9g fat|2g protein|0g sugar|48g sodium

2 cups of fresh basil (packed)
1/4 cup walnuts (whole or chopped)
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt (optional, to taste)
1/4 tsp black pepper

Place basil leaves, walnuts, garlic, salt and pepper into the bowl of a food processor.
Pulse until very finely chopped
Slowly pour olive oil into the food processor, pulsing until the mixture is well-combined and the consistency is thick. *Add more olive oil to thin out the sauce or less olive oil to thicken, if desired.
Stop the food processor, remove the blade, and transfer pesto to a small bowl.
Mix in Parmesan cheese with a spoon until combined.
Store leftover pesto in an air-tight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Pesto can be made ahead of time and refrigerated/frozen prior to using.

Recipe adapted from: “Basil Pesto” — Everyday Italian by Giada DeLaurentiis
Photography: Lighten Up Recipes
basil walnut pesto


2 thoughts on “Basil Walnut Pesto

  1. Pingback: ‘Chicken Club’-style Chicken with Creamy Pesto Sauce | Lighten Up!

  2. I have been making pesto for over 30 years, and I use pistachio nuts and at least two cloves of garlic. I got my recipe from Craig Claiborne of the NY Times who wrote a Sunday food column in the NY Times Magazine. I have also lightened the recipe by using less olive oil and using pasta cooking water to thin it out.

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