Think of this as your next weeknight meal. This parsley walnut pesto is as simple as it gets. Inspired by a pesto made from garlic (lots of garlic!) and walnuts, called agliata in Italy, this dish is loaded with the vibrant flavors of parsley, garlic, olive oil, and walnuts…and a touch of lemon. It’s a traditional winter pesto that’s just as green, garlicky, cheesy, and nutty as summer pesto with basil, parmesan and pine nuts. It makes a flavorful sauce for pasta, or a great spread for crostini appetizers or even sandwiches.
Is parsley walnut pesto healthy?
Yes! Okay, everyone has their own definition of “healthy”. Of course, while a pasta dish served with a parsley walnut pesto is rather high in calories and fat, homemade pesto is loaded with nutrients and a punch of flavor that many other sauces, especially store-bought ones, lack.
Fresh ingredients for taste and good health
First of all, parsley is packed with vitamin K (important factor in bone and heart health), is high in antioxidants, and other vitamins and powerful nutrients. And olive oil, my oil of choice, has anti-inflammatory properties and is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, among other things. Then there are walnuts, which are good for the heart, contain calcium and iron, and are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. And of course, any good pesto has garlic, which boosts immunity, helps to lower cholesterol levels because of the antioxidant properties, and much more. So ignore the calories for a moment and reach for some parsley, walnuts, cheese, garlic, and olive oil – we’re about to prepare something super easy, super quick, good and delicious.
Although filling, you’ll also be surprised by this dishes light consistency while still having an aromatic and complex garlic and walnut flavor. Go ahead, trade in walnuts for pecans – they work just as well! This dish also tastes great with a little gorgonzola stirred in.
Cappellini in a Parsley Walnut Pesto
- 400 g cappellini or spaghettini (or favorite pasta variety), reserving 1/4 cup pasta-cooking water (60 ml)
- 1 cup walnuts or pecans, lightly toasted (100 g)
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (80 ml)
- 3 small bunches flat-leaf parsley
- 1/3 cup vegetable broth (80 ml)
- 6 garlic cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon dry bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (from an organic lemon)
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- freshly grated parmesan
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Fill a large pot of water with water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook according to packet instructions, until al dente.
Meanwhile, in food processor (or using a immersion blender), blend the walnuts, olive oil, parsley, broth, garlic, salt, bread crumbs, lemon zest and lemon juice until smooth.
Reserve 1/4 cup pasta-cooking water (60 ml), then drain pasta and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the walnut mixture, toss and add pasta water one tablespoon a time until the sauce reaches the desired consistency; tossing until well combined.
Garnish with freshly grated parmesan, salt and pepper and serve immediately.
- Be sure to reserve some of the pasta-cooking water. This will help ensure that there is enough sauce to go along with your noodles. The starch in the water gives your sauce extra body and help the sauce cling to the noodles. Make sure your noodles are al dente as well, as it will allow the pasta to absorb some of the sauce.
- Zesting a lemon: Avoid the white pith separating the colorful zest and the fruit. It's bitter and doesn't add the brightness like the peel.
- I find this parsley walnut pesto quite filling so prefer to cook little less pasta and include a green salad on the side. For big eaters, feel free to use 500 g pasta or serve a salad and some bread or on the side.
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