The Best Pesto Recipe

I first fell in love with pesto when I was backpacking in the Liguria section of Italy (just south of Genoa on the Mediterranean). As I was hiking between the towns of Cinque Terre, I spotted (and smelled!) someone eating linguini with pesto and I had to stop and try it. It was love at first bite! At least once a summer, I make a large batch of pesto out of the basil I grow and freeze it to use all year. I love pesto for both its health benefits and its versatility. This pesto recipe is the best because it uses omega-3 rich walnuts and olive oil to give the perfect taste. Mangia!

Healthy Ingredients

The main ingredients in pesto are basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese, each with their own health benefits:

  • Olive oil is rich in heart healthy monounsaturated fats that can reduce the risk for heart disease and diabetes.
  • Basil is rich in flavonoid phytochemicals called orientin and vicenin. These phytochemicals act like antioxidants, protecting healthy cells from cancer and diseases by neutralizing damaging free radicals.
  • Garlic has been shown to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Pine nuts are also a source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat that can improve cardiovascular health and help to manage type 2 diabetes.
  • Walnuts are a good source of monounsaturated and omega-3 fats that can improve cardiovascular health, insulin, and inflammation.

Easy Ways To Use Pesto:

  • As a substitution for mayonnaise or mustard on sandwiches
  • On top of grilled fish or chicken
  • Mixed with pasta
  • Tossed with vegetables
  • As a marinade for fish or seafood
  • As a substitute for pizza sauce

Need more ideas? The Food Network lists 50 things to make with pesto.

Helpful Tips When Making And Storing Pesto:

  • Use high quality olive oil. It does make a difference.
  • Pine nuts are rich in oil and go rancid quickly. Store pine nuts tightly wrapped in plastic in the fridge for up to three months or in the freezer for up to nine.
  • Pulse, don’t puree. Overworking the basil in the food processor breaks down the chlorophyll which gives pesto its signature green color.
  • To store in the refrigerator, drizzle a thin layer of olive oil on the surface and place plastic wrap directly on the pesto in an airtight container.
  • Once pesto is made, put in ice cube trays and freeze. Transfer frozen pesto to zip lock bag and defrost in the refrigerator as needed.


Kalgaonkar S, Almario RU, Gurusinghe D, et al. Differential effects of walnuts vs almonds on improving metabolic and endocrine parameters in PCOS. Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 2011;65(3):386-393.

Pesto pureed in food processor

Pesto pureed in food processor

Walnut Pesto

Making this pesto with walnuts instead of traditional pine nuts, increases the omega-3 content. Prepare pesto ahead of time and freeze it in ice cube trays to enjoy all year round.

Makes 1 1/2 cups


1/2 cup chopped walnuts
6 cloves garlic
3 cups fresh sweet basil, packed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesean cheese


Place walnuts and garlic in a food processor. Pulse for 30 seconds. Scrape sides. Add basil, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, add olive oil and process until pesto is pureed. Scrape sides. Add cheese and puree for 30 seconds.

Nutrition information (1 Tablespoon)

107 calories, 1 g carbohydrate, 11 g fat (2 g saturated), 1 g protein, 57 mg sodium

Recipe from The PCOS Nutrition Center Cookbook: 100 Easy and Delicious Recipes to Beat PCOS

pcos cookbook

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Comments (2)
  • Ella

    February 19, 2024 at 9:33 am

    According to several different articles I’ve read, pine nuts can raise testosterone levels, so I’m wary of pesto for this reason.

  • Angela Grassi

    March 18, 2024 at 11:21 am


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