Basil Pecan Pesto


Fresh basil, pecorino pepato, toasted pecans, garlic, and lots of olive oil – the makings of a pesto.


Pesto alla Genovese…so green, so savory, such a sign of summer.  Aside from fresh grown tomatoes and watermelons,  nothing says summer more to me more than the pesto.

Basil has a short growing season.  As far south as we are, my basil usually bolts sometime in July.  Did you know that it’s nearly impossible to find baby basil plants to replant at this time?  This year one plant has started to put out flower stalks, and the other one has not.  But, given the time of year, it’s time to harvest it.

Essentially, I made a large batch here, because I wanted to share some with my sister. This recipe is from a book I’ve had for a very long time, Cooking with Herbs, by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead (1989).  I increased the quantities.  Haven’t looked at in a while, but after glancing through it, I’ve actually made quite a bit from there.  All delicious!

I used:

  • 6 cups  loosely packed basil leaves, washed and air-dried
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted pecans
  • 2 clove elephant garlic (equal to 4 cloves regular garlic)
  • 2 cloves regular garlic
  • 4 ounces pecorino pepato, if available
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • a little extra olive oil to cover the tops
  • extra parmesan or pecorino romano (or pepato, if yo can find it) when serving

Drying the leaves in a paper towel…A salad spinner words well, too.

After perusing the internet for photos of pesto, I was truly surprised to see so many that looked like a bright avocado cream sauce.  Just a very bright green, emulsified sauce.  I kind of had a desire to make it the way I use to make: by hand.  If you make it by hand, make sure you have a really sharp knife.  My knives were not sharp enough, they were bruising and browning the leaves instead of cutting them.  So, I put those in the mini-food processor I have, and processed them in there just until they were cut small.

I started by mincing the garlic, and then adding the pecans to the garlic, and keep on chopping.


Adding the pecans to the garlic.,,and keep chopping.



The pesto, spread out on a plate…lots of savory bites!


The results: 7 four-ounce jars, topped by some olive oil to prevent browning. Ready to put on some pasta! Or bread. Or soup. Or sandwich.



When filling the jars, use a butter knife around the sides to help remove air pockets. Oxygen causes oxidation which causes the delicate basil leaves to turn brown.

If you have more pesto than what you think you can eat in a week, freeze it.  If you are comfortable using glass in the freezer, go ahead.  Packing it in an ice cube tray and transferring the cubes to a ziploc bag in the freezer will give you individual servings of pesto, ready for any use.

About the cheeses-I love pecorino pepato.  Pecorino pepato is pecorino romano with black peppercorns added in.  Perfect for pasta carbonara.  However, it is hard to find in most markets.  I usually use pecorino romano over parmesan, simply because that’s the cheese that was most used where I grew up.  Pecorino Romano is historically made with sheep’s milk and has a tangier taste whereas Parmesan is made with cow’s milk and is slightly milder and nuttier.  Feel free to use the standard parmesan as you choose. 

5 thoughts on “Basil Pecan Pesto

  1. I’ve used pecans in pesto for a long time. Pine nuts are so expensive and so not local. I made some today for lunch and it was wonderful. Used parmesan and pecorino romano.

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