Pesto Plain and Simple

Mariel here. Pesto is the type of thing that does wonders for sprucing up a lackluster meal. Pop it on toasted bread and you’ll instantly add pep to a Tomato Salad; spread it on chicken breasts for a little zest; or just blend it with your favorite pasta. And, there are more pesto renditions than you can shake a stick at, so you really can’t go (too) wrong. The following version subs-out pine nuts in favor of the more wallet-friendly walnut and I’ve added a dash of sun-dried tomato to add a certain earthy smokiness. If you own a food processor, making pesto is as easy as hitting pulse. If you don’t, get ready to sharpen those knives…

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Pesto Plain and Simple
Makes roughly two cups worth

3 cups basil leaves, packed (about 2 big bunches) – $2.98
2 Tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes – $1.25
3 cloves garlic – stock
1/2 cup olive oil (err on the side of slightly more rather than less) – stock
1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted – stock
1/3 cup freshly shaved/grated parmesan – $4.00
1/2 teaspoon salt – stock
Dash fresh black pepper – stock
Grand total assuming well-stocked kitchen: $8.23

1. In a food processor, combine the nuts, cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, pepper and salt – blend until it forms a thick paste

2. Add the basil in handfuls until it’s finely chopped. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the food processor.

3. With the food processor running, gradually add the oil until everything’s smooth and creamy. Serve over piping hot penne or store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to a month.


  1. says

    Hi, I love pesto but my son is allergic to pine nuts and every other nut. Do you think it would work to leave the nuts out, or is there a substitution that you know of? Thanks! Btw looks delicious!

    • feastonthecheap says

      Hi MaEats:

      To sub-out the nuts, try increasing the parmesan and maybe adding a drop or 2 of olive oil, depending on how it emulsifies w/o nuts. Bumping up the sun-dried tomatoes will also help lend the pesto a little more substance and increase the earthy flavor that the nuts usually provide. Hope this helps!


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