Pesto Sauce Recipe. All Variations



The great classic wears many exciting hats. It is traditionally based on most often based on basil, olive oil, and toasted walnuts. Be sure to check out my sun-dried tomato pesto as well!

Pesto sauceWe have seen it pesto recast endlessly and beautifully with a different herb or nut, and tasting just as delicious and interesting as the basic basil-walnut original. Use it not only as a pasta sauce but as topping for cooked chicken or fish, or a dip. I find that toasting the nuts intensifies the pesto’s flavor, so don’t skip that step!

Gluten-Free Pasta Pesto?



You bet! This is my favorite gluten-free pasta brand. And not even because I keep gluten-free (I don’t) but because it is simply amazing: delicious, that’s a given. But in addition to that, it is a nutritional powerhouse: a whopping 24 grams protein per 2 oz serving, and very high in fiber. A win-win. It makes wheat pasta and even rice pasta sound like a total waste of calories and carbs, sorry guys, devitalized and devitalizing. I used to hardly ever eat pasta until I found this one!

Gluten free pasta

Pesto keeps a good few weeks in the refrigerator

Boy you’ll be happy to take out that jar when you want pasta in a hurry. The olive oil preserves all other ingredients in the sauce, and keeps it fresh and vibrant. And if you make a double  batch like I do, it will freeze beautifully. Hint: your friends will be happy to get a gift jar of the precious condiment. Just sayin’!

Many of us can’t have nuts.

Does this mean we will never enjoy Pesto? Heaven Forbid, no it doesn’t. And this is always your chance to show off your resourcefulness: use seeds, play with all the variations in the recipe and get a different and exciting dish every time. Even no nuts or seeds altogether. You will love my sun-dried tomato pesto.

No cheese either?

For that matter, many of us can’t have cheese. And here again, just as the nut-free variation, a no-cheese, or 100% vegan cheese variation works beautifully. Even no cheese at all will work great. Cheese need not be integral part of the pesto dish. One more idea before I call it a day: use nutritional yeast flakes or vegan cheese!

Scroll down for all exciting variations!



  • 2 cups basil leaves, packed
  • 1 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts (about 15 minutes in a preheated 300 °F oven)
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • Ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup- 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan (change it up with feta) Vegan: use nutritional yeast flakes or vegan cheese.


  • I pound of your favorite pasta, including Gluten-Free Pasta, or Low-Carb Pasta, cooked according to the manufacturer's instructions, 1/2 cup of the cooking water reserved.


Make the pesto:

Process all pesto ingredients in a food processor until smooth but still a little chunky, not a complete paste.
Makes about 2 cups pesto sauce. If using later, store refrigerated in a glass jar.

Make pesto pasta:

Toss about 1 cup of the pesto with the pasta and reserved cooking water.


In the same proportions:

  •  Short and sweet selection: Substitute parsley, cilantro, mint, spinach, arugala, kale, broccoli or watercress for the basil or in combination (I love the watercress-arugala combo).
  • Brighten it up with lemon zest
  •  Substitute toasted pecans, pine nuts, hazelnuts, or pistachios for the walnuts.
  • Can't have nuts? Use toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds
1 reply
  1. Seyma
    Seyma says:

    Seriously addictive pesto–you will not want to buy the jarred stuff after making this at home. It will leave your kitchen wonderfully fragrant!


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