Roasted Walnut Pesto and Italian Honeymoon Memories

I LOVE pesto and if you do as well, you’ll definitely want to give this delicious recipe a try.  Growing up, my Italian family (on my mom and dad’s side) never ate pesto as part of our traditional Italian cuisine.  The first time I had pesto, it was made by my mother-in-law before my husband and me were even married.  She used fresh basil from her garden along with roasted pine nuts.  She served it over pasta, and it was out of this world!  The second time that I had pesto, other than from my mother-in-law, was when my husband and I were on our honeymoon and we had the most delicious pesto at a pizzeria in Portofino, Italy called El Portico.

Our European honeymoon was 20 years ago this October and it was one of the best vacations that we have yet to experience.  Portofino is such a breathtaking town and when we arrived to the fishing village on the Italian Riviera with the cobbled stone square, we decided to start with some lunch.

A beautiful view of Portofino from the hillside.

Here we are enjoying wood fired pizza just before the gnocchi with pesto.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of our meal.  That was just something that no one ever did 20 years ago!  But I do remember how fantastic the pesto was with the homemade gnocchi.  It was a bright green color and it was so creamy…quite different from ours at home.  My husband and I were in heaven and I remember how we just kept looking at each other after each bite with big smiles.  After all, everything taste better in Italy.

Mike and I enjoying our lunch with the chef and a few friends that we met on our trip.

Taking a walk after lunch and exploring Portofino.  The hydrangeas were just gorgeous.


Colorful boats in the harbor with the fishermen.

Until this past year, I have never taken the time to try to make my own pesto.  If you look at the store-bought ingredients in most pesto sauces you will see that the oil used is rarely only olive oil but rather soybean, canola and/or vegetable oil.  These oils are toxic and wreak havoc on our gut and immune system.  And even if a pesto is made with olive oil, the jars are usually in a clear glass bottle and may have been sitting on the shelf for an extended period of time.  Prolonged exposure of light can cause the oil to turn rancid if it is not in a dark colored jar.  So over the past year, I have been experimenting and making my own pesto from time to time.  Knowing that all of the ingredients are fresh or organic really gives me peace of mind!

This recipe is really simple and only involves seven ingredients….lots of basil, walnuts, garlic, lemon, Parmesan cheese, sea salt and olive oil.

I start by roasting my walnuts at 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes.  At this point they will start to brown and become very fragrant.

While the walnuts are roasting, cube up some Parmesan.  I always use fresh, real Parmesan.  Packaged shredded cheese usually has starch and other ingredients.  It really is very simple to just add fresh Parmesan to the food processor and if you have extra, you can put it in a glass or silicone storage container to use later.


While the walnuts are cooling wash and rinse your fresh basil.


Once the walnuts cool, add them to the cheese.

Process the cheese and the walnuts until well combined.

Then add the garlic and lemon juice and combine again.  Then add the basil.  You’ll want to pack it down a bit.


Then slowly add the olive oil until the pesto comes together.


Then add the salt.  For this recipe I used 2 tsp but you can adjust to your liking.

And that is it!  This is so flavorful!  If you love pesto, I think you will be very happy with this recipe!  Hopefully, someday we will make it back to Portofino to enjoy theirs again!  Let me know if you try it!


To You In Good Health,



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Disclaimer: I do not diagnose or treat disease, but instead make recommendations for balancing the body and promoting optimal wellness.  Nutritional Therapy Practitioners are approved by the NTA as a certifying organization, but are not licensed or certified by any state.  I am not, nor do I represent myself as a dietitian or nutritionist.  This post is not sponsored.

Roasted Walnut Pesto

Course Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Keyword basil, dips, garlic, Italian, lemon, olive oil, Parmesan, pesto, sauce, walnuts
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Author Vanessa Wochner


  • 2 cups Walnuts whole
  • 8 oz Parmesan Cheese wedge
  • 8 oz Organic Basil fresh
  • 2 tsp Chopped Garlic
  • 1/2 Lemon freshly squeezed
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp Sea Salt or to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Roast walnuts for 8-10 minutes, until fragrant. Remove and set aside to cool.

  3. Cube Parmesan cheese and then place in food processor and grind until finely grated.

  4. Wash and stem the basil. Pat dry with a towel.

  5. When walnuts have cooled, add them to the grated cheese in the food processor and processed until combined.

  6. Add garlic and lemon juice and combine again.

  7. Add the basil to the cheese, walnuts, garlic and lemon juice mixture. You may need to pack it down a bit.

  8. Slowly add the olive oil until the pesto starts to form.

  9. Add the salt.

  10. Serve immediately as a dip with veggies, seeded crackers, grilled/roasted/sauteed meats or combine with pasta. Otherwise, keep refrigerated.