This fresh basil walnut pesto is a great addition to meats, veggies, pasta, salads, and more!
I’m not much of a gardener, but I proudly grow a big beautiful bush of basil every summer. And then I put it on top of everything all season long.
As the summer starts to wind down my basil plant continues to flourish, and making homemade pesto is my favorite way to use it all up. Pesto is super simple, with just a few ingredients and 5 minutes of work, but it packs a lot of flavor in its little package. It’s fresh, fragrant, and the great addition to so many dishes!
Read on for flavor variations and tips for how to store fresh pesto so you can enjoy a bit of summer all year long.
Pesto ingredients and variations
- Fresh basil— Basil is the classic and what you’ll see most often, but you can also use other greens and herbs. Spinach, kale, arugula, mint, etc. The possibilities are endless! Use just one or a combination.
- Toasted nuts— Traditional pesto is usually made with toasted pine nuts, but I like to use walnuts because they’re so much cheaper! And the pesto is still delicious. Pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews are other great options. Toasting the nuts enhances their flavor, but you can skip that step too for a little variation.
- Parmesan cheese— I like to use grated parmesan cheese as it blends better into the pesto than shaved or shredded. Other cheese options are asiago and pecorino romano.
- Garlic— Feel free to use as much garlic per your preference, but I’ve found 2 cloves to be the perfect amount of flavor and kick without overpowering the sauce.
- Salt— I always use coarse or sea salt. Taste and adjust as needed.
- Olive oil— You want to use a nice fragrant olive oil if possible. Start with a little and add more a bit at a time to get the consistency you want.
Ways to use pesto
Here are just a few ways pesto can enhance any dish or meal!
- Pasta— stir into cooked pasta with a little reserved pasta water for a quick and delicious sauce. Use as a dressing for pasta salads.
- Meats— Brush on seafood, poultry, pork, beef before cooking, or use as part of a marinade.
- Veggies— Toss veggies with pesto before roasting or grilling. Drizzle or toss with cooked veggies before serving. Stir into mashed potatoes.
- Breads— Use as a dipper. Spread on toast. Brush on pizza before baking.
- Salad dressing— Thin out with a little olive oil and use as a dressing for salads.
- Condiment— Spread on sandwiches and burgers.
How to store pesto
- In the fridge— Place in an airtight container and store in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. To avoid oxidation add a thin layer of olive oil on the top.
- In the freezer— My favorite way to store pesto is to freeze in an ice cube tray and then place in a freezer bag. Then you can just pull out a little pesto when you need it!
Tools for this recipe
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Basil Walnut Pesto
- 6 cups loosely packed fresh basil (145 grams)
- 1/2 cup toasted walnuts (56 grams), or nuts of choice
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (50 grams)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup olive oil (60-80 ml)
- Place basil, nuts, cheese, garlic, and salt in a food processor or high powered blender and pulse several times until it starts to come together but still looks pretty chunky. Scrape sides down.
- While the food processor/blender is running add 1/4 cup of olive oil. Scrape sides down again.
- Add more olive oil per your preference, whether you like a chunky thick pesto or a smoother sauce.
- Use pesto right away, or keep pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or more. Pesto also freezes really well.