Crunchy Basil Pesto

Pesto is an Italian basil sauce traditionally made with basil (yes, the main ingredient), garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese. The cheese provides a strong umami flavour (umami = savoury, deep, “body”), and the crushed basil leaves release that amazing sweet and anise-like aroma. You can make it by pounding the ingredients with a mortar and pestle, or go modern and blitz with a blender or food processor.

Here, I’ve made mine with almonds and walnuts instead of pine nuts – mainly because I tend to stock those nuts for handy snacks anyway and it’s just another way of enjoying them. All these nuts are great sources of heart-friendly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, the ones that reduce your cholesterol levels, combat inflammation and aid cell wellbeing and regeneration.

Another great bonus – for non-home herb garden growers, basil needs to be bought in bunches despite recipes only calling for a handful of leaves at a time. Pesto is a convenient way of using up your leftover basil from a spag bol (like this mushroomy meat-free version) or pasta bake.


7 ways to enjoy pesto (one to try each day of the week!)

  1. Dollop onto quiches or savoury tarts
  2. Instead of tomato paste on pizza bases
  3. Stirred through fettuccine, penne or even gnocchi dishes – delicious if you add broccoli
  4. Sauce for your next burger – add your pattie, cheese, rocket and sundried tomatoes (tomatoes are a second umami-rich source) all on a wholegrain bun
  5. Add to meatballs
  6. Toss through your next salad
  7. Marinade your seafood – a few tablespoons of pesto + lemon juice (this works for lamb and chicken kebabs too



Serves: 10 (approx 1-2 tablespoons each)

Costs: $5.21 ($0.52 per serve)

Cooking time: 5-10 mins


  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp dry roasted almonds, unsalted (approx half a small handful)
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, unsalted (approx one small handful)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated

Let’s get cooking:

  1. Place basil leaves and garlic into a blender or food processor. Blitz until it forms a chunky paste.
  2. Add almonds and walnuts and blitz again.
  3. While the motor is running, gradually add the olive oil.
  4. Stir through the parmesan cheese. Add a few tablespoons of water if you prefer your pesto runnier.


  • If you like, add a squirt of lemon or lime juice or zest for a zing.

Nutritional Information:

This pesto is a great source of monounsaturated fats and some polyunsaturated fats. 

Per serve
Energy (kJ) 462
Protein (g) 1.8
Total fat (g) 11.3
 – Saturated fat (g) 1.8
Carbohydrate (g) 0.4
 – Sugars (g) 0.2
Fibre (g) 0.8
Sodium (mg) 32


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