An oil-free basil and pecan pesto

oil-free pesto pasta

When planning your garden, think about growing some fresh herbs such as basil. We grow a variety called columnar basil, which has the advantage that it doesn’t flower and keep producing leaves all summer long.  Use it to make pesto, an Italian classic, or variants of it.

This oil-free version of a pesto sauce served over spaghettini or other pasta will register at 445 calories per serving, contributing only 16 grams of fat to your diet (healthy fat, mostly from the pecans).  This vegetarian dish will bring you approximately 16 grams of protein, depending on the pasta you use; we use the Barilla brand which has 10g of protein per 75g portion.

For an added pinch of acidity, squirt a bit of lemon juice over the dish at the dinner table!

Oil-free basil and pecan pesto sauce over spaghettini
Recipe type: Pasta dish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 150g spaghettini or other pasta
  • ¼ cup whole, shelled pecans
  • 1 cup basil, well packed
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt (if using unsalted broth)
  • pepper to taste
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta over medium high heat according to the package directions (typically between 6-8 minutes depending on the pasta, to taste).
  2. Roast the pecans for 5 mins. You can roast them either in an oven set at 350F or in a pan set on medium heat. Stir the pecans from time to time so that they are evenly roasted. Let them cool and chop them finely either by hand, in a blender or in a food processor. Reserve.
  3. To make the pesto base, blend the basil, broth, salt (if the broth is unsalted) and garlic in a blender (an immersion blender works best). Add pepper to taste.
  4. When the pasta is cooked, put aside ½ cup of the cooking water and strain the pasta. In the pot, add ¼ cup of the reserved water and the pesto mixture, and cook over medium heat for 1 minute, stirring often. Remove from the heat.
  5. Set aside about ⅓ of the pecans and ⅓ of the parmesan, to use as garnish.
  6. Add the pasta, the remaining chopped pecans and parmesan to the pot and stir well. Add some of the reserved water if the pasta looks too dry.
  7. Serve onto warm plates, and sprinkle with the rest of the pecans and parmesan. Serve immediately.


We’d love to hear what you thought of this dish, and what you would change to improve it according to your taste!

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