Pistachio Pesto

Fresh, bold, and the prettiest color green – this pesto will enhance whatever you add it to! It is as delightful to make as it is to eat thanks to the use of a food processor. While die-hard purists definitely pooh-pooh using a processor for pesto in lieu of a mortar and pestle – I do not have one of those, and no one can deny the processor method is quick and easy. Following the technique used in this recipe will help you nail the pesto consistency. The goal is to create some texture but still have the ingredients bound into a unified sauce. Not only does the texture of pesto make it more interesting to eat, but it helps it cling better to pasta (or whatever you toss it with, really).

Let’s talk ingredients: standard pesto uses pine nuts and basil. This pesto uses pistachios in place of the pine nuts and a mix of basil and arugula. Pistachios have such a rich and unique nutty flavor. I love making this pesto in the spring because pistachios just go so well with the produce this time of year. The color is also a feast for the eyes! If you are a pistachio fan (pistachio ice cream anyone?) you will LOVE the taste they lend to this pesto.

The ratio of basil to arugula in this recipe is 3:1. TBH, the arugula and basil combo came about because pesto uses a lot of basil, and basil is not always the most affordable thing. I was so pleased to discover that the blend of the two + the pistachios go so well together! The arugula brings these bitter and black pepper-esque notes, which make the pesto more dynamic than using basil alone. That said – you can sub all basil if you do not have any arugula on hand, as only 1/2 a cup is used.

I want to add that this pesto is super bomb with lemon zest added to taste. If you like it zippy, go with a full tsp., or about the zest of one lemon. This will not add acid (the lemon juice takes care of that) but instead lends that pure-lemony goodness with fruity, floral, and bright notes. Depending on what you are using it with – I highly suggest this variation on the recipe below.

Pistachio Pesto

Servings: makes about 1.5 cups

Time: 20 minutes or less


  • .5 cup/60g shelled pistachios, toasted
  • .5 cup/60g shredded Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1.5 cups/45g basil leaves, well packed
  • .5 cup/15g baby arugula, well packed
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 6-8 tbsp. best quality EVOO
  • .5 tsp. sea salt (or to taste)
  • pinch or two of red pepper flakes


  1. Add pistachios and garlic to processor and pulse 5-8 times, until nuts and garlic are roughly chopped.
  2. Add Parmigiano Reggiano and pulse 2 more times to chop it up a bit.
  3. Add lemon juice, basil, arugula, salt, and 4 tbsp. EVOO and pulse until the greens are finely chopped. Scrape down the sides as needed to ensure it breaks down evenly.
  4. Turn the processor on and quickly pour another 2-4 tbsp. of EVOO through the spout at the top of the food processor while it is running. I like to add 2 tbsp., turn it off, scrape down the sides, and check the consistency at that point. Then add 1 and repeat before adding the final tbsp. The goal is to have the oil and the pesto ingredients combined, so that the oil is not separating. Be sure to keep the processor running for as brief a time as possible to keep to from over blending.
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve right away or save for later use. See notes for storage suggestions.


  • See my comment in the post about adding lemon zest for a super delicious variation on this recipe, with even more punch.
  • Store leftover pesto in the fridge under a thin layer of EVOO. The EVOO will keep the oxygen from browning the top of your pesto and helps retain the bright, fresh flavor. Also, storing pesto in a container that it fills up almost completely will help keep oxidation at bay. Leftovers will keep for about 5 days in the fridge stored this way.
  • You can also freeze this pesto for later use. Note that freezing can darken the color, but the flavor is retained quite well.

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