Walnut Pesto and Basil Envy

I have low expectations of the herbs growing in my garden. It’s not their fault. We coddle them when they’re first planted; then we get busy and forget all about them and they’re left to their own devices.

So Steve bought a new crop of herbs over the weekend from the Alemany Farmers’ Market. Flat-leaf parsley, French tarragon, French thyme, sage and Moroccan mint – they’re sitting on our wall until he gets them into the garden beds. I hope these are the independent types that can fend for themselves.

One herb we no longer plant is basil. I love basil but not the snails that feast on them. The first time we put basil into the ground, I had dreams of a thick growth in summer and lots of pesto. We woke up the very next morning, devastated to find the snails had cut the plants to the quick. Only a few paltry, naked stems remained.

Steve said we should hunt down those snails and eat them, because they would now be basil-infused. I said it would be well-deserved retribution.

But of course, we didn’t. We now go to the farmers’ market or the supermarket to get our fixings for pesto, which was David’s favorite food, as a child.

So, in addition to the herbs in pots, Steve also bought bunches of basil. I made up several batches of pesto to freeze for later, minus the Parmesan cheese. We’ll add the cheese when we’re ready to use the pesto.

I like Joyce Goldstein’s recipe for Walnut Pesto, developed for the Walnut Marketing Board. I’ve been making this recipe for years. My kitchen still smells divine from all that basil. I only wish it had come from my own garden.

Walnut Pesto
3 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
½ cup toasted walnuts
2 teaspoons minced garlic
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 1½ cups olive oil
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 to 1½ teaspoons salt

Combine all ingredients except olive oil, cheese and salt in blender container or bowl of food processor fitted with stainless steel blade. Add half the olive oil; process. Add remaining olive oil as needed to make a thick purée. Do not over process. Mixture should not be a smooth paste; tiny pieces of basil should be visible. Add the cheese; process just to blend. If needed, mix in salt. To serve, toss pesto at room temperature with hot cooked fettuccine, using about 1/4 cup pesto for every 2 cups cooked pasta. Recipe by Joyce Goldstein for the Walnut Marketing Board.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups.


  • If pesto is not to be used immediately, do not mix in cheese before storing. Transfer to a jar with a screw top. Top the pesto with a 1/4-inch layer of olive oil. This will keep it bright green in color. Pesto will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator. Bring pesto to room temperature and add cheese just before using.
  • To toast walnuts: Spread nuts in a shallow pan. Bake at 350 degrees F stirring often for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Cool. To microwave, spread 3/4 to 1 cup walnuts in a single layer in a glass pie plate. Microwave at HIGH for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. Cool.
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Posted: Apr 3rd by Sandy_Hu