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Almond Pesto is a fun and flavorful twist on the classic! Keeping the basil of the traditional version, but swapping in toasted almonds for pine nuts, and pecorino cheese for parmesan. Creamy, tangy, and lightly smoky it's a must try for pesto lovers.
Though this almond pesto is ideal for tossing with pasta (especially homemade pasta with dough made in the food processor), that's just one way to enjoy it. Stir it into soups, mashed potatoes, or roasted vegetables. Spread onto grilled or pan fried fish or seafood, swirl into scrambled eggs, or enjoy as a dip for bread or vegetables. The options are endless!
Ingredients You Need to Make Almond Pesto
- Basil: Look for fresh, bright green bunches of basil. Fresh basil spoils quickly, so purchase it no later than the day before you plan to use it.
- Garlic: This recipe calls for a meager one clove, feel free to add more if you like.
- Toasted Almonds: Raw almonds will also work, but you'll lose some flavor depth.
- Pecorino Cheese: Parmesan cheese is also an option.
- Olive Oil: A good quality, extra virgin olive oil.
- Kosher Salt
It's not an overstatement to say that I'm infatuated with pesto.
It was first introduced to me when I'd just graduated from high school. I had a new job and my boss invited me to dinner. When I arrived, my bosses wife Melanie was just beginning to drizzle olive oil into a blender full of heavenly scented, brilliant green paste. When the pesto had whirled itself into silky oblivion, she poured it over a serving bowl of hot tortellini, hunks of thinly sliced prosciutto, and loads of summer vegetables: red peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms. Then she tossed it all together and topped it with more cheese. I remember thinking that it was one of the best things I'd ever tasted.
Melanie was kind enough to write down the recipe which I've kept in a notebook ever since. About most things, I'm not very sentimental, but handwritten recipes from friends and family feel like little treasures to me. And If you've had dinner at our home several times, I've probably served you this dish. After decades, it's still one of my favorites.
More Versions of Pesto
I've experimented with classic basil pesto using different nut and cheese combinations, sometimes making it with a vegetable or a green like spinach or arugula instead of basil. (You may remember this Broccoli Pesto - also with almonds, these Caprese Crostini or this Hazelnut Pesto with charred cauliflower.) I also love to swirl it with homemade aioli to make Pesto Aioli. So when I spotted parsley pesto in Bon Appétit I tried the recipe immediately, and this guy says it best...
But, that's okay Bon Appétit, I still love you.
So this is my second pass at the recipe: I added garlic (for heaven's sake!), swapped in basil for parsley (hardly original), used pecorino (bingo!), and toasted almonds (er, yum?). And you know what? This Almond Pesto may be my favorite version of pesto yet.
How to Make Almond Pesto
Step 1: Pulse basil, garlic, almonds, cheese and salt in a food processor until minced.
Step 2: Add olive oil in a slow, steady stream with the processor running, processing until smooth. Serve as desired.
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves packed, about 1 ½ ounces
- 1 clove garlic (see recipe note #2)
- ⅓ cup toasted almonds
- 2 ounces grated pecorino cheese
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or ½ teaspoon fine salt
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Place basil, garlic, almonds, cheese and salt in the bowl of a food processor; pulse until finely minced, scraping down the side of the bowl with a spatula as needed.
- With the food processor running, add oil through the shoot in a slow steady stream. Process until smooth. Use immediately or store according to directions in recipe notes.
- Store almond pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Smooth the top of the pesto and add a thin coat of olive oil to preserve the bright green color. Or freeze pesto for up to 6 months. For convenience, freeze in an ice cube tray then transfer frozen pesto cubes to a freezer bag to use as desired.
- If you like a garlicky pesto, add 2 or even 3 cloves of garlic.
- This recipe makes about 1 cup.