Basil Pesto Sauce with Walnuts

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Basil Pesto Sauce with Walnuts is savory and delicious on everything from pasta to pork tenderloin. This fragrant and savory sauce will spice up any meal!

basil pesto in a white dish with fresh basil in the background
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How to Grow Your Own Basil

This year, I set out to successfully grow basil for the first time. It's not the first time I've tried. There have been many attempts over the years. But, I was determined to grow a big batch this summer so I could make fresh Basil Pesto Sauce for pasta and sandwiches all season long.

I've tried countless times to grow basil, but it always turned black and wilted. Then, my friend, Lisa, shared her secret with me. She said to plant it so it would only be exposed to the morning sun. And, just like basil grew.

fresh basil on a white counter top

What's in Basil Pesto?

Traditional pesto is made with fresh basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic, and extra-virgin olive oil.

Pesto originated in Genoa, the capital city of Liguria, Italy. To this day, you can see pesto being muddled with mortar and pestle throughout the region. It's a way of life.

However, in America, pesto has evolved as people's tastes have changed. You can basically substitute every ingredient if desired. Of course, this notion is not popular with anyone living in Genoa.

How to Make Basil Pesto Sauce

To make Basil Pesto Sauce, start by placing 2 cups of packed basil leaves (without the stems) into a blender or food processor. Add walnuts, or nuts of your choice, and pulse a few times.

fresh basil and walnuts in a blender before processing

Since pine nuts tend to be expensive, I'm substituting walnuts in their place. You can also use cashews, pecans, or pistachios if you wish.

I love the flavor of walnuts in this sauce, but make sure not to use black walnuts because they are too strong for this recipe.

Add garlic and parmesan, continuing to pulse ingredients together. Slowly pour olive oil into blender while it is running. Stop pulsing and scrape the sides. Continue to blend the pesto until it is a creamy green paste.

a wedge of parmesan cheese being grated onto a green plate

Stir in salt and pepper, then pour pesto into an airtight container. Store it tightly...because if the air hits the pesto, it will lose its bright, green hue.

basil pesto sauce on a white background with fresh basil and parmesan cheese beside it

What Does Pesto Taste Like?

Pesto tastes like a savory blend of herbs and cheese, but the basil hits you first. It's a bit fruity and peppery. Garlic and parmesan, mixed with extra virgin olive oil, is a match made in heaven.

My favorite way to eat pesto is on crusty bread, but in Italy, it's almost always served on long pasta like fettuccini or bucatini.

fresh basil leaves in a glass measuring cup

Can Pesto Be Frozen?

One of the best things about making pesto is that it freezes very well. You can store it in plastic condiment cups, but some folks like to freeze pesto in ice cube trays, then pop it into a recipe when needed.

Basil Pesto Sauce is a great accompaniment to Grilled Pork Tenderloin or mixed into penne to make my Easy Pesto Pasta recipe.

More Sauces to Love


Recipe Card

basil pesto in a white dish with fresh basil in the background

Basil Pesto Sauce with Walnuts

Basil Pesto Sauce with Walnuts is savory and delicious on everything from pasta to bread. Its fragrant and peppery flavor will spice up all your meals. 
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Sauces
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Calories: 390kcal

*See notes in blog post for detailed tips, photos and instructions.


  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves packed down
  • ½ cup walnuts can use pine nuts, cashews or pistachios
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese grated by hand
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • dash of salt and pepper


  • In a food processor or blender, pulse basil and walnuts together a few times. 
  • Add garlic and parmesan cheese, then pulse well.
  • Scrape sides, then pulse again. 
  • Pour in olive oil and blend until creamy.  
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.


  • If desired, substitute parsley or cilantro for half of the basil. Pine nuts, cashews or pistachios can be used instead of walnuts as well.
  • Basil Pesto Sauce can be frozen up to 3 months in individual containers or ice cubes. Add to recipes or pasta for instant flavor. 
  • It is best to store pesto in airtight containers. Once it's exposed to air, it will lose its bright green hue.


Calories: 390kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 40g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Sodium: 202mg | Potassium: 122mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 188mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition info is an auto generated estimate.

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  1. 5 stars
    I love the background you give in your blog. Muddling pesto is a new phrase for me! This is so good, and I agree with you-best on bread!

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