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Sage Walnut Pesto Pasta combines fresh sage and parsley, toasted walnuts, garlic, sage-infused olive oil, and Parmesan cheese in a wonderful pesto sauce. Toss with your favorite pasta.
A delicious way to enjoy fresh sage
This time of year, our herb garden explodes with fresh sage, so I’m always on the lookout for recipes to use some of it up. I ran across a sage and walnut pesto recipe over on Fine Cooking, immediately tried it, and fell in love!
If you’ve ever been put off by the strong, garlic and basil flavors of an Italian Genovese pesto – this sage walnut pesto is completely different. Fresh sage is combined with fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, toasted walnuts, a little bit of garlic, and Parmesan cheese, then pureed with sage-infused olive oil to create a smooth and vibrant green pesto sauce.
Why You’ll Love Sage Walnut Pesto Pasta
- This pesto is a satisfyingly delicious meatless entrée or side dish.
- It’s a great way to use up fresh sage from the garden.
- You can vary this recipe with different types of pasta – it works equally well with spirals, bow-tie, shells, or strand pasta shapes.
Key Ingredients & Substitutions
- Fresh sage – Fresh sage is a main ingredient in this dish and cannot be substituted. Sorry – dried sage will not work for this recipe.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Chose your best quality extra virgin olive oil for this dish. Some of the sage leaves will be cooked in the oil, which flavors it for mixing up the pesto.
- Fresh garlic – You’ll use one or two garlic cloves depending on the size and how garlicy you like your pesto. Avoid the jarred garlic – it has a more bitter taste.
- Fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley – This recipe calls for quite a lot of fresh parsley. Choose the Italian flat-leaf parsley, not the curly parsley.
- Walnuts – Buy walnut halves, not pre-chopped walnuts. You’ll be toasting the walnuts, and larger pieces toast more evenly and are less likely to scorch. Toasted walnuts are used in the pesto as well as a garnish.
- Parmesan – Freshly-grated, aged Parmesan is always our recommendation, especially for pesto recipes.
- Salt and pepper
- Your favorite pasta – We chose Gemelli pasta, but any sturdy or strand pasta shape will work just fine.
Special Tools Needed
- Medium skillet – To toast the walnuts and fry the sage
- Large Pot – To cook the pasta
- Cheese grater
- Various measuring cups and spoons
- Food processor
How do I make Sage Walnut Pesto Pasta?
- Toast walnuts in a dry skillet. Set aside ¼ cup to use as garnish, then set the remaining aside to cool for the pesto.
- Heat olive oil in the same skillet. Fry one-third of the sage leaves until crispy. Set the fried leaves aside on paper towels to drain and cool, then crumble to use as garnish.
- Pour the sage-flavored oil into a heat-proof bowl or jar to cool to room temperature. (We just reused the glass measuring cup used to measure out the oil.)
- Process garlic, toasted walnuts, Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper in a food processor.
- Add remaining sage and all the parsley and process again.
- With motor running, slowly add cooled sage-infused oil to form a thick paste.
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Save two cups of the pasta cooking water, drain the rest, then pour the drained pasta back into the pot.
- Add pesto and one cup of the pasta water to the pot with the pasta and stir to combine. Add more pasta water as needed and to reheat leftovers.
- Serve with the remaining toasted walnuts, crumbled fried sage, and additional Parmesan cheese on top.
Tips & Tricks
Hot pasta absorbs moisture as it cools. Save the extra pasta cooking water to reheat leftovers and to thin the pesto sauce.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I make Sage Walnut Pesto Pasta ahead of time? Yes – make pesto and chill. When ready to serve, cook the pasta and combine.
- How do I store leftovers? Store refrigerated for up to three days
- How do I reheat leftovers? Reheat in a saucepan or the microwave using some of the extra pasta water to loosen the sauce to a cream consistency.
- Can I use other herbs or nuts instead of the parsley? We haven’t tried any other variations, but we have seen other recipes for sage pesto that included basil or mint instead. You could certainly swap in other nuts, however, the toasted walnuts add a very nice flavor so you may need to make some other flavor adjustments.
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1 cup walnuts (large pieces if possible)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup fresh sage leaves, divided
1 large or two medium fresh garlic cloves
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
1 1/2 cups fresh flat leaf parsley leaves, no stems
12 ounces of your favorite pasta (we used Gemelli)
- In a heavy bottomed dry pan over medium heat, toast the walnuts then remove. Set one-quater cup aside to use as garnish.
- Wipe the pan and add the olive oil, again over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, fry one third of the sage leaves to use as garnish and to also flavor the oil. As they fry, remove with a slotted spoon to paper towels and then crumble to use as garnish. Cool the now flavored oil in some sort of a heat proof container. We used the glass measuring cup that we measured the oil in to cool the oil to room temperature.
- In the bowl of a food processor, add garlic and turn on motor to process. Add the three-quarter’s cup of toasted walnuts and keep processing.
- Add the Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and continue to process.
- Add the remaining sage leaves and all of the parsley and process to a thick consistency.
- With motor running, slowly pour in the now cooled flavored oil to form a creamy thick paste.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil then salt the water. Add the pasta and cook to package directions.
- Reserve two cups of the pasta water and drain the rest.
- Pour the drained pasta back into the pot off heat and stir in the pesto along with one cup of the pasta water. (Save the remaining water to keep the pasta loose and to use to reheat leftovers)
- Serve with the reserved toasted walnuts, crumbled fried sage and additional Parmesan cheese if desired.
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