Homemade Basil Walnut Pesto

Now that Alex and I are settling into married life and our first apartment together, I decided last night was the perfect time to experiment with one of our wedding gifts: a Cuisinart 9-cup food processor from Williams-Sonoma. Pasta with pesto sounded like the perfect dinner to make on a hot summer’s night.

The meal was a bit of an experiment because instead of making the sauce with pine nuts like I usually do, I made it with walnuts. Pine nuts have less total fat content than walnuts, so I ended up using much less olive oil than usual. The result was stupendous – perfectly nutty and rich without being too filling. We added some chicken breast and grape tomatoes for extra umph, but the sauce is just as delicious without. Try the recipe below to see for yourself.

Homemade Basil Walnut Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and packed (about 3 large bunches)
  • 3/4 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup of walnuts
  • 3 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp of sea salt and 2 tsp of fresh ground black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Pour walnuts into food processor and pulse until coarsely ground.
  2. Add the basil in batches, pulsing until it makes a chunky puree.
  3. Add the garlic cloves and pulse until fully combined.
  4. While the processor is on, slowly pour in the olive oil.
  5. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then add the cheese. Pulse until smooth.
  6. Add salt and pepper, then pulse until combined.

Serves 2-4 (depending on how hungry you are)

The above recipe is perfect for serving at room temperature with a baguette, or over pasta. I’ve been obsessed with long fusilli lately and find that it is the perfect instrument for transporting sauces from my plate to my mouth.
As for that extra umph I was telling you about earlier? I added sliced sauteed chicken breast to the pasta, folding the sauce, fusilli, and chicken together until fully combined. When plated, I sprinkle grape tomato halves on top. The raw, cool tomatoes are the perfect compliment to the nutty, creamy pesto and hot pasta, and the chicken adds protein for extra energy.
Enjoy!

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