Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Recipe of the month: Pesto Walnut Pasta

This particular recipe I got while watching Sanjeev Kapoor’s show Khana Khazana one weekend. Although I had never made a pesto sauce before, I decided to give it a go since it looked wholesome, simple to make and required only a handful of ingredients. What a winner it turned out to be! You can hardly ever go wrong with it. You get the fresh sweet flavor of basil, aroma of the olive oil, earthy pungency of garlic, the heat from dry red chillies, creaminess from the parmesan cheese, a sweet tartness from the cherry tomatoes and the crunchiness from the walnuts. It has become one of my favorite dishes in recent times and has a special place in my treasured recipe book. This is one recipe for which my hubby will venture out even at the most unearthly hours, to buy the required ingredients if he craves for it for breakfast the next morning 😊

This pasta features as a staple item on our weekend menu. We are such gluttons that I double the quantity mentioned in the recipe below and we are still able to finish it....just the two of us! 😛

I hope you try it out and love it as much as we do!

Pesto Walnut Pasta

Preparation time: 20 min
Cooking time: 15 min 
Serves: 2
Recipe category: Main Course/Italian
Recipe Level: Easy
Recipe Source: Adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor's website


200 gm pasta (penne/fusilli/spaghetti/fettucini/orzo)
8-10 walnuts (for the pesto)
5-6 coarsely chopped walnuts, for garnish
¾ cup (30 gm) fresh Italian basil leaves
3-4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp good-quality extra virgin olive oil
A squeeze of lemon juice
12-14 cherry tomatoes
1-2 tsp crushed dry red chillies
Salt to taste, if required


  1. Drop the pasta in a pot of boiling water to which a generous amount of salt and a drizzle of oil have been added. Stir intermittently to ensure the pasta does not stick. Cook the pasta al dente (firm but done). Remember that the pasta continues to cook after you toss it with the pesto sauce so it should not be overcooked. Reserve half cup of the pasta water (optional). Drain the pasta and keep aside. Do not refresh with water as the starch helps the sauce to coat the pasta.
  2. Prepare the pesto sauce by blending the walnuts, garlic, basil leaves, lemon juice, parmesan cheese and olive oil. It should form a smooth, bright green paste. Note that the pesto sauce tends to discolor with time so avoid preparing it in advance. Prepare it after the pasta is done cooking.3
  3. While the pasta is cooking, in another pot, heat some olive oil and add the cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle some salt over it and cook with the lid covered. Once the tomatoes start to blister and soften, add chopped walnuts, crushed dry red chillies, cooked pasta, reserved pasta water and mix well. Switch off the flame and take the pot off the heat. Add the pesto sauce and toss well. Check the seasoning and adjust accordingly.4
  4. Sprinkle with grated/shaved parmesan cheese and serve alongside garlic bread or a garden salad.


  • I have tried this recipe with Vietnamese and Thai basil leaves which taste sharper (more pungent) than sweet Italian basil and the pasta still tastes okay but not good as with sweet Italian basil
  • Instead of walnuts, you can use pine nuts or almonds as well
  • Time the recipe in such a way that the pasta gets cooked around the same time as it is to be mixed in with the pesto sauce. This way the pasta is hot and absorbs the flavors from the sauce better and the pesto sauce retains its green color.
  • Do not cook the pesto sauce! It is to be added at the very last and just mixed together with the rest of the ingredients
  • Use whole wheat or brown rice pasta or quinoa pasta if you want to make this recipe healthier
  • You can add one finely minced fresh red chilli along with the cherry tomatoes while sautĂ©ing if you want a bit more fiery heat (that's the Indian in me talking!).
  • This pasta dish tastes best when served immediately. Letting the pasta sit for prolonged periods and/or refrigeration dries it out and leads to a loss of flavor so I wouldn't recommend it as a dish that you could prepare in advance or serve as leftovers the next day. 



  1. I've just seen this photo on SavorySight and had to tell you - it's a wonderful dish!!
    I looooooooove pesto, and the combination of ingredients here are great :)

  2. Thank you Winnie :) I hope you try it out. Please give me feedback if you do!

  3. Hey Megha, we love Pesto at home.I followed this recipe last weekend, came out decent (i think) :P. I had a hard time finding Parmesan Cheese :( and when i managed to locate a store,I realized this dish is quite an expensive affair!What are the other alternatives if one does not find Parmesan? Would Cheddar work well?

  4. Good to hear that u tried it Sahana :) Yeah some of the ingredients can work out to be expensive. U can substitute cheddar if u can't get parmesan but the parmesan has a very nice nutty flavor whereas cheddar can be quite milky and flavorless. But both can enrich the creamy consistency of the pesto so go ahead :)

  5. Ok,i was concerned about cheddar not blending well with the sauce too. Thanks Megha :).


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