How to Make Basil and Walnut Pesto: A Frugal Summer Staple

Basil and Walnut Pesto is the perfect recipe for anyone who wants to enjoy the gourmet taste of pesto without breaking the bank.

All you need to do is grab some fresh basil, walnuts, and parmesan cheese, and you’ll have a delicious pesto that’s perfect for swirling into hot pasta, spreading on sandwiches, or adding to anything else you’d like.

So give it a try and enjoy the gourmet taste of basil pesto without the hefty price tag.

finished pesto in ramekin.

Basil Walnut Pesto

A budget-friendly pesto recipe that you'll love. Versatile, freezer friendly, and perfect for summer. Makes 1 cup.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Serving Size 8 servings

Equipment

  • Blender or food processor

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves packed
  • ½ cup walnuts toasted
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese about 3-4 ounces
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Instructions 

  • Toast the Walnuts: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet in a single layer. Toast them in the preheated oven for about 5-7 minutes, or until they become fragrant and lightly browned. Keep an eye on them to avoid burning. Once toasted, remove from the oven and let them cool.
    walnuts before and after toasting.
  • Prep the Basil: Rinse the fresh basil leaves thoroughly and pat them dry with paper towels. Make sure they are completely dry to avoid a watery pesto. For the freshest taste, remove any tough stems or discolored leaves.
  • Blend the Pesto: Place the toasted walnuts, prepared basil, grated Parmesan cheese, garlic cloves, salt, and black pepper in a food processor or blender. Then, pulse the ingredients a few times to coarsely chop them, checking the consistency after each pulse. With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the extra-virgin olive oil until the mixture is well combined and reaches a smooth, creamy texture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to ensure all ingredients are evenly processed.
    ingredients in food processor before and after blending.
  • Drizzle in Olive Oil: With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the extra-virgin olive oil until the mixture is well combined and reaches a smooth, creamy texture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to ensure all ingredients are evenly processed.
    finished pesto in food processor.
  • Serve or Store the Pesto: Serve immediately, or carefully store. Transfer the walnut basil pesto to a clean and airtight container. You can store it in the refrigerator for up to a week. For longer storage, you can freeze the pesto in ice cube trays and transfer the frozen cubes to a freezer-safe bag.

Notes

Use fresh and bright green basil leaves instead of wilted ones to get the best taste. The pesto will not taste as good if the basil is not fresh. 
Basil can turn brown if it’s exposed to air for a few days. To prevent this, cover it with olive oil or freeze it. 
Toasting walnuts is important to bring out their nutty flavor, but be careful not to burn them. Keep an eye on them in the oven, and remove them as soon as they look brown and smell good.
When you blend the pesto, start with pulsing to chop the ingredients before blending continuously to avoid over-blending. This will make the pesto too smooth and pasty. Stop when it’s creamy and has just a bit of texture.
Calories: 197kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 256mg | Potassium: 67mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 0.2g | Vitamin A: 372IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 76mg | Iron: 1mg

More Tips:

If you find the pesto too thick, add more olive oil gradually until it reaches your preferred consistency. This may vary depending on the moisture in the basil leaves.

If you want a milder garlic taste, reduce the amount of garlic or use half a teaspoon of garlic powder.

Taste the pesto after blending and adjust the seasoning accordingly. Sometimes, adding a pinch of salt or a few grinds of pepper can improve its flavor.

Aside from using it with pasta, pesto can be a versatile ingredient in various dishes. You can try it as a marinade for chicken, spread it on grilled sandwiches, or mix it into a vegetable soup for extra flavor.

close up pesto

Serving Suggestions

Basil and Walnut Pesto is best served with pasta, sandwiches and wraps, grilled meats and fish, vegetables, salads, pizza, flatbreads, or eggs,

About the Ingredients

Here are ingredient substitutions you can try:

  • Basil: Swap with spinach or arugula for a milder or peppery flavor.
  • Walnuts: Use pine nuts, almonds, or pecans instead for a different nutty taste.
  • Parmesan Cheese: Try Romano or Asiago cheese for a similar salty taste.
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: Avocado or light vegetable oil is a good alternative.
  • Garlic: For less strong garlic flavor, use roasted garlic or reduce the amount.
ingredients on wooden board.

Remember that making these substitutions will change the flavor and texture of the pesto, but experimenting can help you tailor the recipe to your taste preferences!

Storage Instructions

Transfer the pesto to a clean, airtight container. Then, pour a thin layer of olive oil over the top of the pesto before sealing the container to prevent the pesto from oxidizing and turning brown. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Pesto freezes very well. Just spoon the pesto into an ice cube tray for portioned servings. Freeze until solid, then transfer the pesto cubes to a freezer-safe bag or container.

Remember to label the bag with the date and keep it frozen for 6 months.

When ready to use, thaw cubes in the refrigerator overnight or drop them directly into hot dishes like pasta or soups.

pasta tossed in homemade pesto.

With these easy steps and practical tips, you can make and store your own Basil Walnut Pesto to add a fresh, homemade touch to your meals.

Enjoy the convenience and flavor of having this versatile condiment at your fingertips!

How to Make Basil and Walnut Pesto: A Frugal Summer Staple
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