Let's Talk...Cashew Basil Pesto

I've been trying really hard to keep my basil plant alive and well.

cashew basil pesto

It would be easier to just get a bunch of basil at the grocery store but I've found that you might as well just get the plant. It's either the same price or just a bit more and doesn't result in sad wilt-y, dried, black leaves buried in the back of your fridge. 

My history with basil plants has been short-lived and gloomy. Last summer I decided to get one and left it outside to grow. The first few weeks were great. I added basil to tomato sauce. I put basil leaves in my salad. But then it got covered in dust from leaf blowers, eaten to bits by aphids and ended up suffering without enough sun. And I'm pretty sure I forgot to water it way too often.

I generally have a pretty bad track record when it comes to taking care of plants. Why is it so hard to remember to water something daily?

This time, I decided I would take the time to care of my basil plant. Every morning for the past month I've been placing it on the windowsill with plenty of sunlight and no bugs or outside dust. I water it every morning and clean out the browned leaves. At night, I take it off the windowsill to close the blinds and repeat the next morning. 

It was thriving really, really well until I decided to make pesto.

Good-bye almost all of the plant. It looks so sad now. I won't grace you with a photo of my Charlie Brown Christmas tree-like basil plant. I'm crossing my fingers that I can resuscitate it and not let another basil plant die on me like Molly's did. 

cashew basil pesto

I based this pesto off of a recipe from my favorite Italian cook, Lidia Bastianich. I've been watching Lidia on PBS for ages. It was always on Saturdays at lunch time right when Kristen and I got back from Tae Kwon Do. We'd make paninis or mushroom soup and rice for lunch while standing as close to the TV as we could without leaving the kitchen. Cheese would ooze out of the panini press and the rice would steam away while Lidia's soothing voice would say "Tutti a tavola a mangiare!" (Yes, I just Googled "What does Lidia say at the end of her show?".)

I love that Lidia still stays true to authentic Italian cooking and hasn't changed much at all over the years. 

But, I made some tweaks to her Classic Pesto recipe to use cashews instead of pine nuts because there are more uses for cashews and reduced the cheese to just parmesan. 

cashew basil pesto

Start off by tearing apart your basil plant with 4 cups of loosely packed basil leaves. Add to a food processor with the salt, garlic and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Blend until a course paste has formed.

Add the pine nuts and the remaining olive oil. Blend until the pine nuts are finely ground.

Stir in the grated parmesan cheese until a creamy paste forms.


Seriously good on many applications such as these homemade ravioli. I'm still working on perfecting those.

cashew basil pesto

Done before Lidia has even moved onto her second recipe of the show.

Cashew Basil Pesto

Adapted from the Classic Pesto in Lidia's Favorite Recipes

Yields: About ¾ cup


Store in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for several months.

The same food processor method can be applied to a mortar and pestle. 


  • 4 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves

  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled

  • 3 tablespoons toasted cashews

  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

  • Pinch of salt

  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil


Blend basil leaves, salt, and garlic in the food processor with 2 tablespoons of olive oil until a course paste is formed.

Add the cashews and the remaining olive oil. Blend until the pine nuts are finely ground.

Stir in the grated parmesan cheese until a creamy paste forms.