This Walnut Pesto comes from the most unlikely place, the NYC staple The Meatball Shop. As a restaurant known for their spicy pork balls and heavy sauces, most wouldn’t assume they also serve a killer lighter fare.
I find most pesto a little too salty and dry, but this one goes light on the seasoning, heavy on the greens and swaps out walnuts for the typical pine nuts. The trick is to toast the walnuts before adding them into the food processor. Make sure to only pulse a few times until the walnuts are just chopped up. This will add a delightful crunch to eat bite.
You can put this pesto on just about everything. I’ve used it in quesadillas, on top of eggs and as a spread for sandwiches, but my favorite and easiest use is with pasta. Especially fun shaped ones! Blanching the spinach and basil first will help to create a thick sauce that will cover every inch.
My one addition to this recipe is a throwing in a tiny bit of Tapatio hot sauce before serving. I always love a little bit of spice. Next up, pesto pizza!
- ¼ cup roughly chopped walnuts
- 4 cups baby spinach leaves
- 2 cups fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Tapatio hot sauce (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread out the walnuts on a small rimmed baking sheet and roast in oven for about 12 minutes, giving them a shake after 6 minutes. Continue roasting until golden brown and toasted. Set aside and allow to cool thoroughly.
- Fill a large stockpot three-quarters full with water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl halfway with ice and water and set close to the sink. Dump the spinach and basil into the boiling water and stir. After 1 minute, strain the greens, and plunge them into the bowl with ice water. Drain the greens again and squeeze them tightly to get as much water out as possible. Chop the greens roughly.
- Combine the greens and walnuts with the salt, olive oil and Parmesan in a food processor and process until a smooth consistency is reached. Taste and season with additional salt and Tapatio, if desired. Top on pasta until fully covered.