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Whenever I make pesto in a food processor, I reach the point just before drizzling in the olive oil and ALWAYS think, “This looks amazing.” Inside the bowl is a coarse textured, alluringly flecked mixture: brilliant green basil studded with bits of gold – walnuts or pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and garlic. Each time, I ignore my instinct to stop there, and, obediently, drizzle in olive oil until a delicious, smooth paste forms.

But not today. 

‘Pesto’ has endless meanings, endless possibilities. It can be made with parsley, mint, spinach, arugula. Traditional pine nuts – at $40 or more a pound these days – are often replaced by walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts. And for cheese: Parmesan, pecorino, asiago. Then there is sun dried tomato pesto. And I imagine that you can think of ten more varieties.

 Of the variations I’ve experimented with, this may be my favorite. The ingredient proportions are non-traditional – heavy on nuts and cheese. But if you love pesto, as I do, please trust me. You’ll love it this way.

The dish comes together in about 15 minutes, including the time it takes to boil the pasta. You toss the hot pasta with the raw, chunky pesto and a few swirls of olive oil and your main course is complete. Toss a quick green salad and dinner is done.

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Fusilli with Deconstructed Pesto

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 12 minutes
Total: 22 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Calories: 664
Servings: 4 people
We enjoyed this alongside steamed summer squash and salmon, grilled and seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of fresh lemon. I used whole wheat fusilli, and it was delicious. But feel free to use any favorite pasta that you have on hand.


For the pasta:

  • 1 pound fusilli pasta
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

For the deconstructed pesto:

  • 1 medium clove garlic
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 3 ounces Parmesan cheese shredded or cut in small chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


  • Heat a large pot of salted water to boil. Once water boils, add fusilli and cook according to package directions.
  • Meanwhile, make the deconstructed pesto: with the food processor running, add garlic, fresh basil, walnuts, Parmesan cheese, and salt through the chute. Process until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Using a spatula, scrape the pesto in to a large serving bowl.
  • When al dente, drain fusilli and add immediately to pesto in serving bowl. Drizzle with olive oil; toss to coat pasta evenly with oil and pesto.
  • Divide among 4 individual bowls. Garnish with shavings of Parmesan cheese and fresh basil leaves if desired. Serve.


Calories: 664kcal | Carbohydrates: 88g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 14mg | Sodium: 639mg | Potassium: 358mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 486IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 302mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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  1. Paula @ Vintage Kitchen says:

    I feel exactly the same about pesto! And the possibilities are endless. The thing is that I can´t possibly follow amounts, it´s just a throw-in-the-processor and check kind of recipe for me. And fusilli is the perfect pasta by far! You made me hungry Marissa

    1. Marissa says:

      If I’m not trying to write a recipe, I do the very same thing!

  2. Giovanna says:

    Pesto is always delicious … Marissa you are a “bravissima cuoca” !

    1. Marissa says:

      aww thanks Giovanna! 🙂