Olive Walnut Pesto

Olive Walnut Pesto
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pasta with olive walnut pesto
Cook pasta, toss with pesto, and enjoy!

We wanted a quick and easy dinner the other night, so, we decided to go with a pasta dish. Easy enough, but, when we looked in the refrigerator, it was lacking, because we’ve not picked up a CSA share since we got back from our recent trip. That meant one thing. No, not order take-out. Ugh. No, not head to the store, either. It meant we had to use what we had on hand: simple staples. We came up with the idea of making an olive-based pesto for pasta. How’s that?

As with all pesto, this is really easy: put most the ingredients in a food processor, and drizzle in olive oil while it’s running. After that, you can use the pesto as a sauce for pasta, a spread for bread or crackers, or a little seasoning for vegetables or even soup. With that kind of versatility, let’s get scratchin’.

Olive Walnut Pesto

Yield: 1/2 cup

Olive Walnut Pesto


  • 1/4 cup (30 g) walnuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) olives, green or black
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Pinch red pepper flake
  • 2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Abbreviated Instructions

Place walnuts, olives, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and red pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely chopped. With processor running, pour in olive oil.

Taste and season with black pepper.


Ingredient discussion:

We list amounts for the ingredients, but take these as a rough measure, and adjust according to your taste. We simply went with about equal amounts of the main ingredients. For the olives, we used ordinary pimento-stuffed green olives. For Parmesan, we always use the real deal or something close: real Parmesano-Reggiano or Grana Padano (sometimes we’d consider using Pecorino Romano). For the olive oil, use a real extra-virgin olive oil with a lot of flavor.

Procedure in detail:

making olive pesto
Making pesto is easy as can be; just combine ingredients, process, and add oil.

Process. If you haven’t done so already, toast the walnuts in a small skillet over medium heat for 7-10 minutes. This will help bring out a nice nutty flavor. Watch carefully and stir often, as nuts have a way of going from nicely toasted to burnt if you turn your back for a minute. Once toasted, place the walnuts, olives, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and red pepper flake in the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely chopped.

pouring olive oil
We don’t really measure the olive oil; we just pour what looks like a good amount.

Add oil. With the processor running, pour in the oil, and run until you have a lightly chunky mixture.

Season. Taste and add pepper as needed. Of course, this is also a time when you can add more olives, more Parmesan, more nuts, more garlic, or more red pepper flakes to make this pesto your pesto. That’s what scratchin’ is all about.

Serve. To serve with pasta, simply boil up your favorite shape, and drain, saving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Stir in some pesto, adding pasta water as needed to thin the sauce to your desired consistency. Serve in warmed bowls with a garnish of more grated Parmesan.

Perfect for a quick easy meal. With a bit of timing, you can set the water for the pasta to boil and toast the nuts at the same time. Then, while the pasta is cooking, quickly whizz up a batch of pesto for the sauce, and presto. A great fresh dish in the time it takes to boil up a few noodles. Easy four stars.

Worth the trouble?

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