Spinach and Walnut Pesto

Spinach & Walnut Pesto via http://underthebluegumtree.comA few weeks back, the lovely Chez Foti posted a gorgeous looking homemade parsley pesto recipe which got me thinking? Why have I never shared my homemade pesto recipes with you?

This particular pesto recipe is very special to me as it is the first recipe I ever developed from scratch. Soon after the OH and I arrived in South Africa, we became involved with a development project that was growing spinach in one of Johannesburg’s townships. This pesto was created as a way of extending the shelf life of some of that wonderful fresh spinach the community were producing.

You will find that this pesto is very different to your average commercial pesto. It’s altogether creamier and more subtle in taste with a little added texture from the walnuts. If you store the pesto in jars, topped with a thin layer of oil, it will be good for at least 3 weeks. The vibrant green colour does fade after a while though so for best results, eat within 7 days.

Spinach and Walnut Pesto

Spinach & Walnut Pesto via http://underthebluegumtree.com

Makes about 400ml

  • 100g spinach leaves (no stalks)
  • 30g fresh basil
  • 275ml canola or rapeseed oil (plus extra for the tops of jars)
  • 100g walnuts
  • 50g parmesan or similar hard cheese, finely grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

1.  Bring a large pan of water to the boil and blanch the spinach and basil for 10 seconds. Transfer the leaves to a bowl of iced water. Once cool, drain and squeeze out as much water as possible.

2.  Puree the spinach and basil with the remaining ingredients using a food processor or blender. You can make the pesto totally smooth or leave it a little chunky. Pour into jars and top with a thin layer of oil to prevent oxidation. Stored this way it will keep in the fridge for 3 weeks.


  1. Oh lovely! And what gorgeous photos. I’ve yet to try spinach or chard in a pesto but it’s on my cooking to do list, yours looks superb. And I hadn’t thought of blanching the leaves first. Since my Parsley & Almond blog I’ve been experimenting a little more with pesto (I’m a huge fan!) and made a really tasty Stilton, Parsley & Walnut one as well as an Aged Manchego, Parsley & Walnut and a more recent Rocket, Parmesan & Pine Kernel. I really need to do a follow up pesto blog…..

    • Thank you! And thank YOU for the inspiration to write this post. I blanche the leaves principally to preserve the green colour. Particularly when using basil I find if you don’t blanche the leaves, the pesto can react when mixed with hot pasta and turn a really unattractive muddy colour. Blanching stops that happening. Also with spinach, particularly if using older leaves, it needs a little bit of softening first. I absolutely LOVE the sound of a stilton pesto. I hope you post that one.

      • Thanks for the blanching tip, I’d never have thought of that…but you’re so right the pesto can go an unattractive brown colour when mixed with hot pasta. Also when it’s frozen or kept for a while. Blanching is definitely the way forward!

  2. This is a lovely pesto! I made a Walnut pesto before but not with the spinach. It’s great to use other nuts than ‘pine’ as they are so expensive! And I think that other nuts give a more interesting texture and flavour. Lovely!

    • Thank you very much. I make a red pepper pesto with pinenuts but I tend to avoid using them if I can as you are right, they are SO expensive. We used to sell this pesto to raise profits for the community project so I had to find an alternative to pinenuts to make it feasible. As you say, I think the walnuts give a better texture and flavour anyway.

  3. We have a couple of walnut trees so I am always on the lookout for ways to use up the many, many nuts that I have every year. I’d never thought of pesto but will definitely give it a try. Lovely pics.

    • This pesto would definitely be a good use for your walnuts. Some friends of mine used to give me walnuts from their tree when in season and you could tell the difference between them and the supermarket ones. I find fresh walnuts give this pesto even more texture. Lovely!

  4. I love homemade pestos! There’s really no point in buying store bought considering how easy it is to make them at home. I never used spinach in mine before only because I fear of it tasting too gritty. I am loving the switch up from pine nuts to walnuts. Thanks for the sharing this post!🙂

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