Subbing walnuts for pine nuts in Hazan's pesto

Joined Dec 8, 2015
OK, this is a basic question, but considering my bad track record with pesto, I want to make sure. Would a 1/4 cup whole toasted walnuts be a good substitute for the 3 tbsp pine nuts called for in Marcella Hazan's pesto recipe below?  Or would I need more considering how bulky walnuts are and how few can fit in a 1/4 cup?  I'd like to avoid pine nuts due to the pine mouth problem.


 2cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
 ½cup extra virgin olive oil
 3Tbsp. pine nuts
 2garlic cloves, chopped fine before putting in the processor
 1/2cup freshly grated parrmigiano-reggiano cheese
 2Tbsp. freshly grated romano cheese
 3Tbsp. butter, softened to room temperature
  1. Briefly soak and wash the basil in cold water, and gently pat it thoroughly dry with paper towels.
  2. Put the basil, olive oil, pine nuts, chopped garlic, and an ample pinch of salt in the processor bowl, and process to a uniform, creamy consistency.
  3. Transfer to a bowl, and mix in the two grated cheeses by hand. It is worth the slight effort to do it by hand to obtain the notably superior texture it produces. When the cheese has been evenly amalgamated with the other ingredients, mix in the softened butter, distributing it uniformly into the sauce.
  4. When spooning the pesto over pasta, dilute it slightly with a tablespoon or two of the hot water in which the pasta was cooked.
  5. Freezing pesto: Make the sauce through to the end of Step 2, and freeze it without cheese and butter in it. Add the cheese and butter when it is thawed, just before serving.


Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001
Yes it will be great.  I would go by weight however.

Edit:  I just reread your whole post.  Perhaps someone here would be kind enough to measure a Tablespoon of pine nuts for you.
Last edited:
Joined Dec 8, 2015
Good call on going by weight (I wish ALL recipes gave weight and not just volume measurements!).  What I'll do is just buy some pine nuts, weigh out three tbsp's worth, and then just put the equivalent amount of walnuts in the pesto instead.  Newsflash: kitchen scales are useful :)
Joined Apr 3, 2008
I've never heard of pine mouth so I looked it up. I have to admit, it sounds like a good little weight loss method, am I crazy?

Don't go crazy buying pine nuts, just guesstimate on the amount. It doesn't make all that much difference. I love walnuts in all kinds of pesto btw.
Joined Dec 8, 2015
Thanks for the great chart BrianShaw!  Just calculated the amount of walnuts I'll need for the same amount of pine nuts. 

Printed out that's going on the fridge for easy reference.
Joined Oct 18, 2007
Recipes have a lot of wiggle room, unless you're baking, then a bit less so.

You don't need a precise amount of nuts.

Walnuts will impart a slight bitterness, not necessarily a bad thing.

A little lemon juice also helps maintain a bright color.

Also, I don't pre-chop my garlic.

I usually put my garlic cloves in the processor first, scraping as needed until the desired consistency, then I add the nuts, then everything but the oil, and finally, drizzle the oil into the processor. 

I don't use butter in my pesto.

If you omit the dairy, pesto can hold in the refer for a few of months, as opposed to a few weeks.

If you opt to do that, you just add cheese (and butter if you wish) when you prepare whatever dish that requires pesto.

Adding the cheese in this fashion will give you similar end results to Step 3.
Joined Dec 8, 2015
Good point about drizzling in the oil Jim.  In fact, I've heard that processing EVOO can "harsh" its flavor.  What I might do is just mix it in by hand in the processor bowl at the end with a spatula.

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