This recipe was inspired by Dan Buettner’s book, the Blue Zones Kitchen.
Pesto is one of those dishes that really do scream “It’s summer time!”. It’s fresh, zesty and carries a lot of flavors not to mention that it can be made in a jiffy. Today, I’m gonna share with you my new favorite Walnut Pesto. It’s so delicious, it will have you question why you’ve never made it this way before.
Where does Walnut Pesto Come from ?
You’re probably more familiar with the classic Genovese version : Basil & Pine nuts version. However, there are dozens of different kinds of pesto in Italy. There is the Modenese version which combines animal fat (like pancetta or lardo), Parmigiano Reggiano, garlic, rosemary or thyme and black pepper. There is also Pesto Rosso (Red Pesto), which combines Sun-dried tomatoes, rosemary, garlic and almonds!
Check out this post for more information about different kinds of Italian Pesto.
And there is of course the Sardinian Pesto which has inspired this recipe. Traditionally, this pesto does not use any basil. It uses Walnuts, Parsley, Pecorino Romano (instead of Parmigiano) and garlic. According to D. Buettner, this sauce predates the introduction of tomatoes into Italian cuisine.
While this Walnut Pesto was inspired by the Sardinian version, there a few significant differences between the two versions. Let’s take a look at the ingredients.
How to make Walnut Pesto
Basil & Italian Parsley: I personally found that a mixture of parsley and basil makes for a fantastic pesto. The ratio I have used is 2(basil) to 1(pesto). You can of course do 1:1 which I highly recommend if you’re going for a very bold flavor.
4 fillets of anchovies (optional): this is not a very common ingredient in pesto. However, the umami flavor and the saltiness that it adds cannot be understated. If you do want to make this pesto 100% vegan, skip the anchovies, or substitute with seaweed.
Garlic: I only used one clove of garlic as I did not want it to overpower the other ingredients.
Walnuts: the shining star of this dish. The neutral & slightly bitter taste of walnuts balances out perfectly the flavors of the other ingredients. This is a must have for this pesto.
Olive oil & lemon juice: while olive oil is a must in any pesto recipe, lemon juice is as common. However, the acidity from the freshly squeezed lemon juice plays very well with olive oil. The lemon juice also helps your pesto preserve it’s color and gives it a really nice shine.
Pecorino Romano: this is entirely optional. If you are vegan, you can just skip this ingredients as it really does not need it. However, I will say that the Pecorino Romano does add more umami to this pesto.
Basil Walnut Pesto
- 2 cups fresh basil roughly 1 bunch
- 1 cup fresh italian parsley
- 4 fillets of anchovies (optional)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 cup walnuts raw, whole
- ½ cup olive oil extra virgin
- ⅓ cup lemon juice About 1 lemon, juiced
- salt to taste
- ½ cup Pecorino Romano (optional) grated
- 500 grams Spaghetti or other kind of pasta you like.
- Fill a pot of water with 4-5 liters of water. Add roughly 2 tbsp. of salt to the water and bring the pot to a boil. Add your pasta and cook according to the package's instructions.
- In a food processor, place the bunch of basil with the bottom half of the stems cut off, the parsley, the anchovies, garlic and walnuts. Blend for 30 seconds.
- Add olive oil and lemon juice. Blend to incorporate. Then add the Pecorino Romano, blend, and add salt to taste.
- Reserve a cup of pasta water and drain your spaghetti. Mix your pesto with your hot pasta until well combined. For a creamy pasta, add some pasta water to the mix until you get the desired consistency. Enjoy!