Creamy Walnut Pesto (DF, GF)

One great thing about the first frost of the season for a gardener – it makes it easier to decide what you will be eating for the next few days!  Our first frost came a little early and a little hard this year for Middle Tennessee.  Usually we flirt ever so gently with 32 degrees 10 – 15 times before it really dips down, so unfortunately despite the frost warnings I did not cut the swiss chard (which made it all the way through last year’s very mild winter), but I did retrieve a few straggling tomatoes, a mess of green peppers that will never turn yellow or red, a big bunch of parsley and some basil.  All this cutting diminished supper prep time so it had to be something fast.

Both of my boys love pesto, and it can be fast, so the basil was chosen to be the first thing to complete it’s early demise.  And it did go out with a bang!

Wishing for something a little more creamy, a little more saucy (You know how I like saucy), a little higher in protein and a little less oily, I slightly changed up my usual approach to pesto.  And in true Sis sisters fashion, my ingenuity was not influenced by genius, but rather by parsimonious penny-pinching in regards to pine nuts.  Wow! They have gotten SO expensive.  Walnuts went through an extremely expensive stage as well, but have come down quite a bit, so they again hold up the plates of freezing french toast, pancakes and veggie burgers in my freezer, and were available for this pesto.  Guess I’d better unload those plates full of frozen time-savers!.

I split this batch in two, half being plenty for 1 lb. of pasta .   You can certainly cut this recipe in half if you don’t have room in your freezer for the second half amidst all of the walnuts – but I had a pile of basil to use up!

A note on the pasta….  I used Trader Joe’s brown rice / quinoa fusilli – a first time and I think the best GF pasta I’ve ever tried.  Don’t go rushing out to buy it if you can eat gluten-full pasta – it ain’t THAT good – but it’s good.  DO try fusilli if you haven’t because it’s a lovely corkscrew shape and when your child asks what kind of pasta you are having you can say, “Fusilli…… fusilli, I’m silly.”  Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week, 2 shows a night 😉  On to the pasta… quickly!

Creamy Walnut Pesto Pasta

1 lb. pasta of your choice
3-4 cloves garlic
5-6 cups basil leaves – I filled my 9 cup cuisinart about 3/4 full with basil leaves


2 cups walnuts
1 – 2 Tbsp. oil- I used olive
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes.  If you’ve never used them you’re in for a treat, they bring a cheesy flavor to dairy free dishes (and also some selenium and zinc).
1 cup & 2 Tbsp. milk (I used homemade, unflavored almond)

Sautee the garlic in a spot of oil in a large pan which will later accomodate the rest of the sauce ingredients

Stuff the basil leaves, walnuts, salt, oil and 2 Tbsp. milk in cuisinart and process, scraping down sides until consistency is smooth and there are no large chunks.  I added the milk at this point to ease processing – feel free to add a little more if you need it.

P1010139Add the processed pesto to the pan on low heat

Add milk and then nutritional yeast flakes until all is incorporated and warm.

Mix half the batch into a pound of pasta and freeze the rest for a quick and easy meal on another night.  I thought this would be good with some veggies mixed in, but not everyone goes for the mix it all in notion, so I served broccoli and peas on the side.  It was indeed quite delicious and earned a place in the lunchtime thermos (always nice to add another candidate to the 12 year old’s thermos-worthy list).

Did you have any last minute harvest happenings at your house?

14 responses

  1. Yum, I adore pesto. I agree with you about the price of pine nuts. Certainly in my part of the world they are astronomical, so I quite often use walnuts instead when making pesto. I’ve found that toasted sunflower seeds make a good substitute too.

  2. Love this pesto! I agree with the price of pine nuts. Last time I checked they were $32/lb in Canada! I thought I had misread it. I’m definitely going for make this. Thanks!
    I saw a cooking show the other day where they were making a tomato pesto with almonds. I need to explore that too.

    • Isn’t it crazy? Makes me want to train some squirrels to harvest them for me 😉
      The almond pesto sounds interesting as well…. keep us posted!

  3. Aren’t walnuts just the best? They don’t cost the earth and they are so wonderful in pesto. I keep hearing about nutritional yeast but have still never used it. I think I need to get out there and try some!

    • It really brings a great ‘cheesy’ flavor to sauces for those who can’t or don’t do dairy. I wouldn’t say it is better than cheese – but it is good for you with lots of B vitamins and no fat!

  4. Pingback: We’re Nuts About Nuts and Now the Scientists are Too! | my sister's pantry

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