Fresh Pesto Sauce

The classic, traditional pesto recipe with fresh basil leaves and Parmesan Cheese

Take the Pesto Challenge! We made classic Pesto with 4 types of nuts and we also made it with roasted nuts and not roasted. What were our findings?


Traditional classic Pesto is always made with pine nuts. I am sure there are italians that would scream heresy if you made pesto with walnuts for example. But the fact of the matter is, pesto tastes great with all kinds of different nuts. We have scoured the internet for pesto recipes and found them with:

Walnuts, Cashews, Pistachios, Macadamians, Pecans, Hazelnuts, Sunflower seeds, Pepitas, Brasilian, Almonds, and even Peanuts.

Why so many variations? Well there are several reasons. For one it can simply be a matter of preference. Another reason can be the high price for pine nuts. Others have mentioned the deforestation and destruction of the ecosystem done in some countries to harvest the pine nuts. And last but not least, nuts have alot of health benefits. For example, pistachios have alot of fiber and can help against high blood pressure.

Why roast the nuts? Roasting enhances the flavors by bringing the oils out. But you will find many if not the majority of the recipes in the foodblog world do not roast to simplify the recipe. This is not wrong but can you really tell the difference? Thats why we took the Pesto Challenge and here are our results:

Most flavorful was the Roasted Pistachio Pesto. This pesto really has a strong lovely exotic taste to it. The nuts really come out with a unique pungent flavor. Even raw beats all the others.

We found the roasted nut pestos were better for Pistachios, Pine Nuts, and Cashews. For the Walnuts, the raw actually had more flavor. However this could simply be due to the roasting. The Walnuts take longer to roast and perhaps we should have roasted them a bit longer.

Pine Nuts came in 2nd. Walnuts in 3rd, and Cashews 4th. We will not make Pesto with Cashews ever again. There is not enough taste from the nuts. It must get a little lost in the other wonderful flavors. But for the other 3, they were delicious both raw and roasted

If you choose not to roast, then the pesto will have a slightly fresher taste to it. This could be preferred in the Spring & Summer months. Also one can add a little lemon to really make the sun shine more!

We hope this was interesting for you. For sure others will have different opinions and we would love to hear them.

If you live in Switzerland, you can buy my fresh Pestos at my shop:

Difficulty: Beginner Prep Time 20 mins Cook Time 10 mins Total Time 30 mins
Servings: 4
Best Season: Suitable throughout the year


This recipe is straightforward with the use of pine nuts and slightly roasting the nuts beforehand.



All Ingredients


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How to make great Pesto Sauce

  1. Slightly roast the nuts. (You can skip this step and use raw nuts) This can be done 2 ways:

    1.  Grilling in the oven on a baking sheet. It goes very fast so be careful not to over roast! You want the roasting to bring out the oils making the sauce creamier and nuttier. If you over roast you end up with dried out nuts.
    2. Use a frying pan and roast over medium heat until slightly colored but not brown. Once the first nuts start browning, its done!
  2. Add the Basil and Pine Nuts to the food processor and pulse a few times.

  3. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the olive oil and pulse several times more. Scrape down the sides of the food processor.

  4. Stream in the Olive Oil: Add about 1/3 of the oil and let run for a few seconds or use pulse. Scrape down the sides. Repeat two more times until all oil has been added. If you want a smooth sauce then allow the processor to run for about 30 seconds. If you prefer a sauce which is a little more chunky, then pulse to the desired consistency. This is what I prefer so that each bite tastes a little different- more nutty, or less garlicky

  5. Remove from the food processor and add salt if necessary


There is no pepper in this recipe as if with most Pesto Sauce recipes. It can be added if you like.

Many suggest a little lemon juice. This adds a nice new dimension and is a nice added touch especially during Spring and Summer Months.



Keywords: Basil, Pesto, Pine Nuts, Walnuts, Cashews, Pistachios

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