Walnut Pesto

We all think of Pesto as the green pasta sauce, made with basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, etc…but over the past several years, I’ve come to think of pesto as a technique as much as a specific recipe.  If a pesto is simply a pureed, generally uncooked, pasta sauce…well, then you can make all kinds of pestos.  And one of my favorites is walnut pesto.  I started making this recipe after seeing Lidia’s Italian Kitchen on PBS, and have really grown to love it.  It’s make from ground walnuts and garlic, which are added to a base of ricotta cheese.  When combined with pasta (and a bit of pasta water) the resulting pasta sauce is creamy, lousious, and permeated with a beautiful flavor of the walnuts.  It’s pretty unique, and absolutely delicious!  Hope you enjoy this walnut pesto as much as I do!

Recipe Overview & Keys to Success

To make the best walnut pesto, just make sure to follow these few key steps:

  1. Use good quality, fresh walnuts.  Some that I buy from the bulk bins are old/soft and off tasting.  They will not make a good pesto
  2. Make sure the blend the walnuts to the right consistency – which is about that of wet sand.  To chunky and they won’t be pleasant to eat.  You can also puree them into a paste if you go too long…which you don’t want
  3. Finally, toast the walnuts before you blend them.  Like just about all nuts, toasting the walnuts will bring out their natural flavors and aroma’s making the walnut pesto more flavorful


Ingredients for Walnut Pesto (for 4)
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
Walnut Pesto
  • Bring a sauté pan to temperature over medium heat
  • Add the walnuts to the dry pan, and toss every 20 seconds of so for 4 – 5 minutes, until the walnuts are toasted (be careful not to burn them)
  • Remove the walnuts and allow them to cool
  • Add the nuts to a food process, as well as the garlic cloves, which you’ve peeled, and then crushed with the side of your knife (crushing them will make the blending easier)
  • Pulse the food processor in 2 – 3 second beats for 8 – 9 times, or until the walnuts have reached the consistency of wet sand
  • Remove to a bowl and add the ricotto cheese, parsley and season with salt and pepper
  • Mix thoroughly, taste and then reseason if needed
  • This walnut pesto is great as a dip for veggies, but I generally use it as a pasta sauce, the same I would do with basil pesto.  Hope you enjoy it!
Walnut Pesto

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