Easy Pesto Recipe – No Special Equipment Required

I wanted to make an easy pesto recipe that didn’t require any fancy equipment because, though I own a mortar and pestle and a food processor, they’re a pain to haul out and to clean.  I wanted to make a pesto that only required a cutting board and a knife, so I did and you can watch Calvin and I make it together.

What’s In Pesto?

Traditional pesto is made with garlic and pine nuts, worked together in a mortar and pestle.  Then basil, olive oil and garlic are added to make a rich, vibrant green basil sauce.  It’s typically served on pasta, but works well on sandwiches, wraps and even on a cheese plate.  A lot of modern recipes suggest simplifying the process with a food processor.

Homemade Walnut Pesto

I personally love this flavorful sauce on my Pesto Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwich.  It’s loaded with flavor and by making your own pesto, you can save a few bucks over the store bought versions.

The trick to making this version is by having a nice comfortable chef’s knife because you are going to do a lot of chopping.  But, it does all come together in under 20 minutes.  I start by working the garlic and salt together with the flat side of my knife.  It’s a cool trick for making garlic paste and I show how to do it in the video tutorial for this recipe.  From there, just keep chopping and mincing, walnuts, arugula and basil.  You can continue using the technique with the back of the knife to help replicate the traditional method of making pesto with a mortar and pestle.

Easy Pesto Recipe

What About the Oil?

I use a flavorful olive oil or avocado oil interchangeably for this recipe.  I like something that has a bit of flavor and richness.  I would not recommend using a vegetable oil or grapeseed oil.  They’re boring and won’t add to the personality of the pesto.

Happy chopping and enjoy!

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Homemade Walnut Pesto

Easy Pesto Recipe – No Special Equipment Required

  • Author: Joanie Simon
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 20 mins
  • Yield: 4 - 6 servings 1x


  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 Tbs walnuts, fine chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup fresh arugula
  • ⅛ tsp pepper
  • 1Tbs red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive or avocado oil
  • 2 Tbs fresh grated parmesan


  1. Start with the pesto by placing the garlic clove on a cutting board and smashing it with the flat side of the knife. Sprinkle the salt on top of the smashed clove and still using the flat side of the knife, work the salt and garlic together until they form a paste. Keep the paste on the cutting board to work into the other ingredients.
  2. Start mincing the walnuts, working in the garlic and smashing with the flat side of the knife to continue to break down the nuts.
  3. Add the basil and arugula to the work surface and mince and work into the walnut garlic mixture, taking plenty of time to get the nuts and herbs into a fine texture then transfer to a jar or bowl.
  4. Add the pepper, Parmesan, vinegar and oil to the jar and stir, smashing against the sides with the back of a spoon until a thick green, chunky pesto is formed.
  5. Keep in the refrigerator up to three days.