Linguine with Basil and Walnut Pesto

Updated February 23, 2016
This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

I rarely used basil in France. In the cooking of the 1950s, it was considered unusual and esoteric. Tarragon, chervil, parsley, and chives were the favorite herbs. I learned to appreciate basil after I came to the United States, visiting the homes of friends who were of Italian descent and used basil regularly. I started growing it and have since become addicted to basil. I plant tiny bush basil, red basil, and regular basil in my garden during the summer, and we make pesto often for dinner, usually on the spur of the moment. I keep herbs for the winter, drying some in the microwave, but basil is best frozen, providing it is blanched first, otherwise it turns an unappealing khaki color. Blanching also takes some of the bitterness out of the pesto (see Notes). I don’t like to freeze finished pesto; the nuts, cheese, and garlic tend to get rancid in the freezer after a few weeks. The puree of fresh basil keeps beautifully green in the freezer, and I add the nuts, cheese, additional olive oil, and garlic to my basil just before using it. Sometimes I add flat-leaf parsley as well, and occasionally a few leaves of verbena, which grows next to my basil. I have experimented with all nuts, but go back to pignoli nuts mixed with walnuts or pecans. I like to use a lot of garlic, plenty of olive oil, and always include some jalapeño or serrano pepper in my pesto. Use the best possible Parmesan cheese, and make sure that your serving plates are very hot. For a main course, use one pound of linguine for four people. You can make this dish with penne or spaghetti, but I like linguine best. At our house, pasta is usually the main course, and we follow it with a tomato or zucchini salad in summer and cheeses and fruit for dessert.

Blanching Basil:

To blanch basil for freezing, drop about 10 cups of clean basil leaves into boiling water, and push them down into the water, so they are submerged. Cook for 1 minute or so—the water may not even come back to a boil—until the basil is soft. Drain, and cool under cold water. Drain again, press lightly to remove some of the water, and then put into the bowl of a food processor with a good dash of salt and a couple of tablespoons of oil. Process, pushing the basil back into the bowl with a rubber spatula, until it is pureed. Freeze in small packages about the size of a deck of cards for use in making pesto, or in 2-tablespoon-size packages for use in soups, salads, or sauces during the winter.

4 servings



Total Timeunder 30 minutes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, halal, kosher, low cholesterol, low saturated fat, peanut free, soy free, vegetarian

Equipmentfood processor


Taste and Texturecheesy, garlicky, herby, nutty

Type of Dishdry pasta, pasta


  • 4 cups basil leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 small jalapeno, seeded
  • ¾ cup mixed nuts: pignoli and walnuts or pecans
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons of the best possible olive oil
  • A few tablespoons water
  • 1 pound linguine
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2-3 tablespoons of the best possible olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper




Include a Photo Include a Photo

Click the button above or drag and drop images onto the button. You can upload two images.

Cancel Reply to Comment

Thanks for your comment. Don't forget to share!


Report Inappropriate Comment

Are you sure you would like to report this comment? It will be flagged for our moderators to take action.

Thank you for taking the time to improve the content on our site.

Sign In to Your Account

Close Window
Sign In with one of your Social Accounts
Sign In using Email and Password