Basil Parsley Pesto Recipe - Pamela Salzman Skip to content

Basil Parsley Pesto Recipe


basil-parsley pesto | pamela salzman

I am willing to bet that I have eaten more pesto in my life than all of you.  Let me give you a little background.  My father has an expert green thumb and has maintained amazing gardens throughout my life.  Every year, he plants one large plot with a wide variety of beautiful vegetables, including tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, green beans, cucumbers, arugula, kale, and so on.  And he also plants one plot of basil.  Just basil.  And every year he has so many basil plants that he has to give them away.  Same story this year.  “Pamela.  I have enough basil plants for all of New York.”  I know what you’re thinking.  Why does your father overplant basil every year?  Trust me, don’t ask.

Well, it’s a good thing we all liked basil growing up!  Because as you might imagine, we were putting it on everything, from our morning eggs to tomato salads to sauteed green beans to macerated strawberries.  But using a few handfuls of green leaves everyday was not putting a dent into our basil farm.  My father would rant and rave (in Italian).  “Do we not eat basil in this house?  I planted so much beautiful basil and no one eats it.  Mah!”  I can still picture the kitchen sink most summer mornings with freshly cut bushes of basil.  “Pamela, if we don’t pick it now, it will turn to seed and then the plant will die.”  Really?  Well I heard you can die from a basil overdose.

My mother had no choice but to turn to pesto.  What better way to use an overabundance of the herb?  Mom pulled out the blender and ground up pine nuts and fresh garlic.  She packed down as much basil as would fit, sprinkled it with salt and with the motor running, slowly poured in the olive oil.  That distinctive aroma would fill the house and still today reminds me of the summers of my youth.  Next came the grated parmesan cheese and we had glorious pesto.  I say glorious, because my sisters and I loved it.  I think my mother probably would have started drinking hard liquor if we didn’t.

Lucky for me that I married someone who loves pesto and gave birth to kids who do, too.  We put it on lots of things — pasta, sandwiches, grilled vegetables, ho-hum chicken or fish, minestrone soup, scrambled eggs, boiled potatoes, pizza and so on.  But I make it my own way with a combination of pine nuts and walnuts; pecorino-romano, which is made from sheep’s milk cheese and a little easier for some to digest than cow’s milk; and dare I say, with half basil and half parsley.  I am obsessed with parsley, which I consider a superfood.  It is loaded with chloropyhll and incredibly rich in nutrients from iron to calcium to Vitamin C.  But parsley also contains some interesting volatile oil compounds that are considered to be “chemoprotective,” which means they can help neutralize certain carcinogens.  The flavor of a basil-parsley pesto is still dominated by basil, but somehow a little lighter.  I actually prefer it to an all-basil pesto.  Of course, the real reason I even started to do half and half is because I always manage to plant way too much parsley.

basil-parsley pesto | pamela salzman

Basil-Parsley Pesto
Serves: makes 2 cups
  • makes 2 cups
  • ¼ cup raw walnuts
  • ¼ cup raw pine nuts
  • 1 ½ - 2 Tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 ½ cups basil leaves, lightly packed
  • 2 ½ cups flat-leaf parsley leaves, lightly packed
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • couple of grinds of black pepper
  • 1 cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup grated pecorino-romano or parmesan cheese**
  1. Place the walnuts, pine nuts, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until finely chopped.
  2. Add the basil and parsley leaves, salt and pepper. Start the food processor and slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is finely pureed. Add the parmesan cheese and puree until well blended. Pesto freezes beautifully.
**To make a dairy-free/vegan version, eliminate the salt and cheese and substitute ¼ cup brown rice miso or other hearty miso. Taste for salt.


Related Recipes



  1. My kids and I love this pesto but I struggle getting it to stay so green like your photos. I know you can blanch the basil but I was wondering if you had a trick since you don’t mention needing to blanch it and your pesto is so green! It looks unappetizing when it browns even though it is totally fine to eat.

    • I answered this on facebook, but want to answer on here as well in case someone else has the same question. I have to say, I am stumped by this question. When I make basil at my mom’s house, it oxidizes so fast and is immediately a dark color. When I make the same recipe at my house, it stays green in the fridge for weeks. I honestly have no idea why! I use a food processor both times, same ingredients, although different brands of oil or nuts, perhaps. Maybe it’s a different variety of basil that she plants and that I buy in California. I cannot explain it!

  2. Do you really just have to use the cilantro leaves? Can’t you just cut off the top of the cilantro bunch and put all in the food processor? Getting the cilantro leaves off is a little time consuming. Thanks.

    • Cilantro or parsley? You can twist off the top of the parsley bunch and use the tender stems as well. Just don’t use the bottom tough ends since they don’t get blended very well. (For cilantro, those stems are actually more tender than parsley and I use the whole thing.)

  3. I’m obsessed with pesto from our farmer’s market. Can’t wait to see how mine turns out! Question – is it necessary to chop garlic if it’s going in the food processor? I’m all for cutting corners.

    • I’m with you! Most food processors do a great job of mincing the garlic with the nuts. If yours can do it, no need to pre-chop :).

      • It’s delish! Definitely has a little kick to it. Wondering if it’s possible I added too much basil.

        • Probably not the basil. More likely the garlic. Keep in mind pesto mellows out a bit after it sits and it will definitely taste milder eaten with other food as opposed to tasting it with a spoon.

  4. I made this last night but my parsley was kind of bitter. Now my pesto is a little bitter. Any ideas for making it a little “sweeter”?

    • Bummer. That’s happened to me before. It’s likely that your basil or even the walnuts were a little bitter. You can add a drop of lemon juice and then taste it. If it’s still bitter, try blending it again with a few spinach leaves. Otherwise, if you’re eating it on pasta, save some of the pasta water and dilute it a little with that.

      • Thanks! I’ll let you know how it turns out.

        • I added some lemon and spinach. It tasted great. Thanks for the advice!

          • Phew! Thanks for letting me know 🙂

  5. yum! just making this for the first time – it’s perfection! how long does it keep in the fridge?

    • I put it on everything. Just used it for the girls’ lunches today with peas, brown rice pasta and spinach. The key is to keep it in a container that’s just big enough without too much air at the top. You can keep it a week or even two in the fridge. It also freezes amazingly well!

  6. I was wondering if you can make a good pesto without using nuts? I have a 1 year old who has not been introduced to nuts yet.

    • Definitely! I think it would be a little looser than the traditional, but the important flavors are still there. If you wanted to bulk it up a little, try adding a handful of cooked chickpeas.

      • Great! Thank you my 3 year old and I just picked a bunch of Basil and are going to make some yummy pesto!

  7. This is wonderful! I make this often in large batches and freeze them individually in smaller batches. My husband loves it on chicken. My kids enjoy dipping bread with it. Thank you!

  8. There are so many varieties of basil, ranging from the sweet/anise-like to more spicy. What type of basil do you recommend for pesto? Do you ever mix varieties?

    • You bring up a good question, Miriam. I grow Genovese basil, which is a sweet Italian basil, which is pretty traditional for pesto and the type I recommend.

  9. yum… now I want your marinara recipe… you must have one!

  10. Sounds like a meal to me!

  11. Here on Long Island what says “summer” better than fresh pesto and sun sweetened tomatoes? Some good dry white “vino” also helps!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe:  

Signup to receive updates about new recipes and more

I come from a large Italian-American family with 28 first cousins (on one side of the family!) where sit-down holiday dinners for 85 people are the norm (how, you might ask – organization! But more on that later …).

Some of my fondest memories are of simple family gatherings, both large and small, with long tables of bowls and platters piled high, the laughter of my cousins echoing and the comfort of tradition warming my soul.

Buy on Amazon
Buy on Amazon