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Recipe: Toasted Walnut Pesto

Fresh basil is plentiful in the summer, but it doesn’t store very long once harvested.  While it will keep for about a week in the refrigerator, the leaves may start to brown from the cold (they’re fine to eat, but not as attractive).  So, whenever we have basil left over after a day at the farmers’ market, I make a batch of pesto and freeze it.

table with basil

Many pesto recipes call for pine nuts, but I find grocery store pine nuts to be flavorless and too expensive, so I always use walnuts.  Toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat until the skins start to crackle and the air is filled with a pleasant nutty aroma.  They will quickly go from toasted to burned, so shake the pan regularly and keep a close eye on them.


  • 3 oz fresh basil leaves (about 2 cups)
  • ¾ cup walnut halves, toasted
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • ¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp olive oil

The Process:

Toast walnuts over medium heat.

Load the basil into the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to reduce the volume.  Add the garlic, salt, and nutritional yeast and pulse again to combine.  (No need to mince or press the garlic clove, just tuck it into the basil leaves after peeling it.)

Add the ¼ cup olive oil and process for about 10 seconds or until the mixture comes together.  Scrape down the sides of the processor bowl with a spatula.

Add the walnuts, replace the processor lid, and drizzle in the remaining olive oil while the machine is running, until the desired consistency is reached (usually about another 10 seconds).  Taste the pesto and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Use immediately or refrigerate for up to a week, or freeze for later use.

Makes about 1-¼ cups.

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