Welcome to The Basil & Cinnamon Sagas! I'm Alexa, and I am a food and travel blogger who loves cooking, baking, eating, and storytelling. Enjoy reading and eating your way through the Sagas found here!

Almond & Pine Nut Basil Pesto

Almond & Pine Nut Basil Pesto

This week has been the pits. 

I'm not really sure where that phrase came from or what it means. What pits are they referring to? Armpits, 'pits? Giant chasms of dirt, pits? The family of Brad and Angelina Jolie, Pitts?

Either way, this week has been the 'pits pits Pitts. That gnarly cold I had barely caught last Friday? It blew up. I still have it, and it got much worse. I feel like a pug; I can't breathe without snorting, and that's a lot of fun when you're in quiet classrooms listening to lectures. Or, you know, trying to have conversations with normal people.

It's probably my own fault it got worse. I was on the road to healing and feeling much better, but then I decided to be a good Zag and wait in line last Monday for basketball tickets for Saturday's game against BYU. Long story short, it poured, and so I stood/sat/sobbed (I didn't really sob) in the freezing rain for my hour-and-a-half shift in the line for my ticket group. I've never been so cold or wet in my life! There was water pouring off of my nose like a spigot. Then I went home, only to find out that we needed to be back in line to get numbers NOW, so I sprinted my wheezing, coughing self back across campus to stand for a while in bone-chilling wind and mist. Then later that night, I got back in line to wait in the cold for actual tickets, as doors opened at 7pm (getting tickets to a Gonzaga men's basketball game is quite a process. Some people last Monday waited from 3am to 7pm!). 

So yeah, probably my fault. I woke up miserable on Tuesday morning, suffered through my classes and work without much coherence, and then went straight to bed. I'm on the mend once again, but I'm still not sleeping well due to my head-coldy pug-ness, which doesn't help me function well in the busy life of a second-semester college senior.


Really though, this week hasn't been the 'pits, pits, or Pitts! I may be sick (and busy and stressed), but I'm constantly reminded of how so very, very blessed I am. My reminder this week? Homemade basil pesto. 

There is little that I love more than a good bowl of pesto-covered pasta. Obviously, I love basil (check out the name of my blog, yo), but the nuttiness of pesto, mixed with the freshness of the herbs and the slight creaminess of the parmesan, is heaven on carbs.

I made my recipe for Almond & Pine Nut Basil Pesto to heal me this week, mixing it with shell pasta, peas, and chicken. The taste of pesto is very nostalgic for me; it takes me back to when I lived in Italy, because my pesto recipe is adapted from my homestay host's pesto recipe. 

I lived with a sweet Italian grandmother named Grazia in a beautiful apartment near Florence's city center. Living and studying in Florence was a dream, and I miss the city, the food, and Grazia immensely. 


***A few of my favorite pictures from Florence, plus a heavenly pesto pasta lunch in Cinque Terre, which is found in the region where pesto originated.*** 

I remember the first day that I got to Florence. I was terrified, homesick, and couldn't understand a word of the Italian that Grazia was speaking to me. I called my parents in a panic, convinced that I had made a mistake in coming to live in Italy. 

Then, Grazia called "Ragazze! Pronto!" signifying that dinner was ready. And while her food didn't immediately solve all of my fear or my homesickness, it began to coax me into the idea of living thousands of miles away from everything that I have ever known, and experiencing peoples, cultures, and flavors both diverse and beautiful.

That first night, Grazia served orecchiette pasta with homemade basil pesto. It was fresh, warm, faintly creamy, and perfect. The door to Grazia's tiny kitchen was open, revealing a small deck over an ivy-covered back courtyard. The sun was setting, the evening light was calm and gentle, and a soft breeze blew in and lifted the muggy end-of-summer European heat. The girls I lived with and Grazia chattered away in bubbling Italian, and with each bite of pesto, the idea that I was now living in Italy became more and more solid, became real. It was a moment of genuine bliss.

That feeling is wrapped up in pesto for me, just as much an ingredient as the basil and pine nuts. I am sharing this recipe with you in the hopes that it can give you a moment of peace this week, can remind you of your own blessings. 

I have adapted Grazia's original recipe to include both of my favorite savory nuts, and while I may be biased, I think that my version is also delicious. I also reworked it to be made in a blender instead of a food processor. This is for two reasons: 1) At my college apartment, I only have a blender, and 2) I originally worked on this recipe at home, where we have a food processor that I can't bring myself to use. A year and a half ago I found a spider in it, and I haven't used it since. 

Feel free to use your Almond & Pine Nut Basil Pesto in whatever meal or moment you need it. Pasta is always a great option, but you can also use it in wraps, sandwiches, quiches, etc. Wherever your imagination takes you!

Stay healthy and peaceful, friends. I hope your weekend is beautiful!

xoxo Alexa


Almond & Pine Nut Basil Pesto

Makes: 1 cup of pesto

Takes: About 10 minutes

The Characters:

  • 2 handfuls fresh basil
  • 4 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. grated parmesan
  • 6 almonds
  • 1&1/2 Tbsp. pine nuts
  • 2 pinches sea salt
  • 1 sprinkle black pepper

The Saga:

  1. Wash and dry two heaping handfuls of fresh basil.
  2. Put basil, olive oil, parmesan, almonds, pine nuts, sea salt, and black pepper into a blender. Note: A food processor can also be used. Adjust run time accordingly if you choose to use this tool instead of a blender--it will likely go faster in a food processor.
  3. Pulse blender a few times, and then run on high for 1 minute (depending on how powerful your blender is. If you have a less powerful blender, you may have to run for 3-5 minutes). Pause every 30 seconds to use a spatula to scrape basil and nuts towards the blades and away from the edges, as they will start to ride up. Note: You can add more of any ingredient if you desire a different consistency to your pesto. Add olive oil if you want it to be thinner, and parmesan, basil leaves, or nuts if you want a thicker consistency. 
  4. Taste, and add a little more sea salt and black pepper if desired.

Adapted from Grazia Pozzi's basil pesto recipe, which she shared with me in Florence, Italy.

Three "P" Pesto Pasta

Three "P" Pesto Pasta

Cheesy Hot Italian Sausage Baked Pasta

Cheesy Hot Italian Sausage Baked Pasta