Nut-Free Spinach Basil Pesto

Recipes like this one are the reason I’m so happy I got a food processor for Christmas last year. What a handy-dandy little workhorse it is, mixing and grating and chopping and generally doing all the work while I push one little button. I’ve always had a blender, of course, but blenders are suited for more liquid-y foods and drinks, and my poor little blender would get pretty worked up when I used to try to make thicker, food-ier foods in it. (Extra-loud whirring, discomfiting burning smell, tears, bargaining, pleas for me to stop, etc., etc.) So when I got my food processor, I felt like a woman on the frontier who’d been doing laundry with a galvanized tin and one of those ribbed washboards you see on the walls at Cracker Barrel–and was suddenly given a Whirlpool washing machine!

I’ve particularly come to enjoy making pesto in my food processor. This week I wanted to use some to fancy up a chicken dish, so I went looking for a spinach and basil version (also had some spinach to use up, thanks to the giant Trader Joe’s bag I can never seem to get all the way through). While the traditional definition of pesto is a sauce made with basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese, the word pesto comes from the Italian pestare, which means “to pound”–hence our English word “pestle,” the instrument that executes the pounding. So really, if you want, you can think of a pesto as any sauce that was made via pounding, regardless of the ingredients. (That’s why this spinach-heavy version counts. My food processor pounded it into submission.) Still, I’m here to tell you, if you’re looking for a basil pesto recipe, you’re going to have to do some looking to find a recipe that doesn’t call for an ingredient that is typically expensive and rarely used in American home kitchens: pine nuts.

I have never bought pine nuts. Ever. And frankly, I really don’t want to. They’re like $7 a pound, which I don’t want to spend, and it would probably take me until my kids are in college to go through a whole bag. Thankfully, they are not actually necessary to make pesto, as evidenced by this lovely spinach-basil pesto recipe. It’s extremely simple, with just a handful of ingredients, and as mentioned before, in a food processor it comes together with just the touch of a button.


So ready your food processing engines, racers! Here comes a savory treat that’s an ideal complement for so many foods: on top of chicken or fish, in pasta or vegetables, or as an alternative sandwich spread. You just might find it addictive.

Spinach Basil Pesto
(Slightly adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)


4 c. spinach
2 c. fresh basil
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/3 c. + 1 Tbsp. olive oil


Place all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor or a sturdy blender. Turn on the machine and blend for 30 seconds. Slowly stream in the olive oil while the machine is running. Process until smooth.

Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Yields 1 cup.

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