A love letter to the amazing cooking of my grandmothers

Giovanna’s Five Nut Pesto Sauce

Five Nut Pesto Sauce
Five Nut Pesto Sauce

Five Nut Pesto Sauce

My big brother Ted got really lucky when he married my sister-in-law Stefania. Not only is she an absolutely incredible woman that I adore, but her family is just so wonderful too. Her mother Giovanna is an opera singer from Italy, I’ll never forget the goosebumps I got when she sang at their wedding. She also happens to be ridiculously talented in the kitchen. When my own wedding to Marc came around years later, Giovanna¬†completely blew me away with the sweetest surprise. She sent a beautiful note, a gorgeous pasta bowl, and her recipe for her favorite five nut pesto sauce. I’ve been waiting for basil to come back in season to finally try it out and let me tell you, it was worth the wait. You’ve never had a pesto sauce like this before! It’s really easy and quick to get on the table. I tossed it with my favorite gluten-free fusilli, so this five nut pesto sauce easily became a vegetarian and gluten-free meal!


  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 packed cup of fresh basil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for topping
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 lb dry pasta, preferably a short pasta like fusilli or farfalle to really hold onto the pesto sauce
  • Additional olive oil for finishing if desired

First, get a large pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil to cook the pasta. Salt it well until it tastes like the sea. Then, get out the food processor and combine all of the nuts, basil, garlic, parsley, cheeses and seasoning into its bowl. Start the processor to pur√©e everything, while slowly streaming in the olive oil to bring it together into a creamy paste. Taste for seasoning and consistency and adjust as necessary to get it to your taste. There should still be a little bit of crunch from the nuts, it’s such a fantastic texture! Set it aside.

The star of five nut pesto sauce, gorgeous fresh basil!

The star of five nut pesto sauce, gorgeous fresh basil!

The five nut pesto sauce all done! I love the color so much.

The five nut pesto sauce all done! I love the color so much.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta until it is perfectly al dente, usually about 7-8 minutes. You don’t want it mushy! While it is cooking, reserve 2 cups of the boiling water and set it aside. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot off of the heat. Spoon the five nut pesto sauce over the pasta and pour in the reserved pasta cooking water. If desired, add an additional drizzle of olive oil to finish it off and bring it together. That’s it, you’re ready to serve! Spoon it into bowls and top with additional grated parmesan. You can also use the sauce in so many other ways though, like spooning it over broiled salmon or adding to salad. Make a batch and freeze it to use whenever you need it! This five nut pesto sauce over pasta was such a special dish from an even more special lady. It’s pretty great having extended family like Giovanna!

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