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Kalyn's Kitchen

Sage-Pecan Pesto

Sage PestoCurrently my garden is producing a huge surplus of Sage, so recently I asked on Twitter what fellow food bloggers thought I should do with it. Making pesto was the first of several good ideas people mentioned for using fresh sage. (More posts coming!)

For people like my recent refrigerator repairman who aren’t familiar with pesto, it’s a type of Italian pasta sauce made with crushed herbs and garlic. The classic Pesto alla Genovese is made with Genovese basil, salt, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, pine nuts, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. These days pesto is made with many types of herbs, and other ingredients can also vary.

When I set out to make the sage pesto, I looked at a few recipes, but didn’t really follow any of them. (What would be the fun in that?) Instead I thought about how I’d like to use the pesto and what I wanted it to taste like. My recipe is fairly heavy on cheese and nuts, and I also put a pretty generous amount of garlic to balance the strong flavor of sage. I saw lots of sage pesto made with walnuts, but I only had pecans, which were great in this.

When it comes right down to it, pesto is a personal thing isn’t it? If you happen to try this recipe, I encourage you to adapt it to your own taste. I’m planning to use my version of sage pesto for things like stuffed chicken breasts or on roasted squash, and maybe in lasagna with spinach.

This sage pesto is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging #147, hosted by Katie from Thyme for Cooking. If you’d like to participate with an entry about cooking with herbs or unusual vegetables, check the new rules for Weekend Herb Blogging, and how to send your entry.

I have two kinds of sage in my garden, but I used this lovely purple sage to make the pesto. This type of sage is so attractive, you could easily plant it among flowers.

I used my large salad spinner to wash three big handfuls of sage to make the pesto. If you don’t have a salad spinner, just wash it and dry with paper towels.

Because I have a big surplus of sage, I used mostly the smaller leaves to make the pesto. I used the food processor to chop up the sage very finely before I added any other ingredients.

Here’s how the finished pesto looked in the food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, definitely you can make pesto by hand in a mortar and pestle, but I confess I’ve never done it. (Yes, the shame of it!)

Sage and Pecan Pesto
(Makes about 4 cups sage pesto which I froze in ice cube trays to make 18 cubes pesto, about 3 T each. Recipe created by Kalyn with inspiration from many sources.)

3 large handfuls sage leaves, stems removed, washed and dried
3/4 cup unsalted pecans (or almonds)
1/3 cup chopped fresh garlic
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups coarsely grated parmesan cheese (or more)

Snip sage leaves from stems with kitchen shears and place leaves in salad spinner. Wash and spin dry (or wash in sink and dry with paper towels.) Put sage in food processor fitted with steel blade and pulse until sage is finely chopped.Use cutting board and chef’s knife to chop garlic and pecans. (They will get chopped more in the food processor so they don’t have to be chopped too precisely.) Add pecans, garlic, salt, and parmesan to food processor and pulse until mixture is well combined but not completely pureed together. With food processor running, pour olive oil in through feed tube as you pulse, until the oil is blended with other ingredients.  (Taste the pesto and see if you want more cheese, since sage is a strong flavor.)

If desired, freeze in ice cube trays or small containers. Will keep in the fridge for at least a week, or for months in the freezer. When my cubes are well frozen, I pop them out and seal them inside a plastic bag with the FoodSaver.

Click Here for Printer Friendly Recipe

More Ideas with Sage Pesto:

Cavatappi Pasta Salad with Walnut-Sage Pesto from Culinary in the Country
D.I.Y. Sage Pesto from The Kitchn

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33 comments on “Sage-Pecan Pesto”

  1. Loved the recipe! Thanks. Your blog is great.

  2. Sage pesto? Wow, what a great idea. I had no idea what to do with all this sage I have. And I love pecans, so this is definitely a “keeper” recipe. You sure are a prolific and creative blogger, Kalyn! Thanks — you have no idea how often I use your tips and recipes. 🙂

  3. Your pesto sounds fabulous, Kalyn!

    My favourite way to use sage is with roasted sweet potato or winter squash. Last fall (for one of your WHB anniversaries!) we made the most amazing lasagne with squash, sage, walnuts and parmigiana.


  4. So simple, I posted this recipe for stuffed chicken breasts where I used the pesto. It’s pretty thick, I don’t think it could be a dip, but you could always improvise and add more olive oil if you wanted to use it to dip bread. That might be good.

  5. Kalyn as you said this would make a great stuffing for chicken,pork or vea…maybe those little vealbirds all trendy in in the 60’s.
    Did you make the pesto drier than normal? It’s not really one you could use for a dip or is it?


  6. Lydia, thanks for the reminder. I must make some fried sage! I love it that people are trying the recipe. I did use rather large handfuls of sage. I would make the pesto and then adjust to taste (that’s how I ended up with so much cheese, mine was too strong at first.)

  7. A month ago I prepared thai basil ice cubes from your first WHB, and now this wonderful variation!
    Thank you!


  8. I made the pesto (with walnuts) and the stuffed chicken recipe and it was yummy. My pesto turned out to be extremely garlicky, which is fine given that I love garlic, but was eclipsing the flavor of the sage somewhat. My “handfuls” must have been smaller than yours.

    Kalyn I love your site! Thank you for publishing all of this.

  9. Really good idea – I circulated your site to everyone important in my life. A really good recipe!

  10. Sage pesto!! Now why have I never thought of that before? Inspired! I love sage and I love pecans, so I don’t know what I’m waiting for… Thanks Kalyn!

  11. Kalyn – I will be making some version of this this weekend! How funny we both posted ice cube trays filled with pesto this week! And actually I typed mine in on Wednesday, but didn’t get it posted till Thursday, so it was really on the same day! What do they say about great minds!

  12. My favorite thing to do with sage is to fry the leaves and use them to garnish risotto, especially a colorful risotto like pumpkin, or a rich mushroom risotto. Despite having two large and bountiful sage bushes in my herb garden, I’ve never made sage pesto. Must rectify that immediately!

  13. Jill, I’m having a hard time imagining pesto with oregano or rosemary, but both herbs can be frozen. You can freeze oregano in the same way you freeze fresh basil according to a comment from a reader. I also posted earlier about freezing rosemary. I’m very fond of the frozen rosemary to use in the winter.

  14. That pesto sounds good! I adore pesto and pecans, so I’m sure I’d love your delightful creation!



  15. The sage pesto sounds wonderful but what I have is an overabundance of oregano and rosemary. I’m not sure if pesto is the answer. What do you think? Or any other suggestions would be welcome.

  16. Another wow ! Yes, me too with surplus of sage, which if I’d been gardening properly I would have cut back much earlier in the year (hah!). I’ve got a stash of pecans in the freezer – don’t see them here very often – but I think your recipe definite calls for them to be used. Fab !

  17. One more different spin on pesto I have got to try. Love the purple sage, Kalyn!

  18. I never thought of that! I tend to ignore my sage. That sounds like a good idea.

  19. We love sage and use tons of it! When I get a decent crop again (new house, I hope) I’ll definitely be making this!

  20. Love the pecan match with sage! 🙂 Thanks for linking me Kalyn!

  21. I have not tried a sage pesto yet. It sounds good. This reminds me that I still have to make some basil pesto and freeze it.

  22. I must say it’s fun to hear that other people also have a lot of sage that’s not getting used! Now I don’t feel quite so neglectful of my own sage. I like hearing about the other sage variations. Michael, thinking the sage was too “sagey” is how I ended up with quite that much cheese, although I wasn’t using the most expensive kind for sure!

  23. Looks and sounds lovely. Can’t wait to see a picture of it on some food, like pasta, chicken, flatbread, something!

  24. As they say, great minds think alike. I, too have a surplus of sage. Last week I set out to experiment with pesto. I used about equal amounts of sage and flat leaf parsley, which I also have in surplus. I used a lot less cheese, in no small part because of the cost of parm-reg and I only had the expensive stuff on hand. I did not use my expensive olive oil either. And I think I used a bit less garlic.

    I was contemplating the traditional pine nut route but recalled how many times I threw out unused expensive nuts because they went stale quickly, or even came to me stale. “Aha!”, I said, “sunflower kernels.” I roasted some raw unsalted kernels, about 3/4 cup and used those.

    I also added a couple squirts of lemon juice and a little salt.

    After whipping it all together I tasted it and said to myself, “Self, this tastes way too sagy.” I put it in a bowl and put it in the fridge intending to fix it the following day. Lo and behold, the next day the flavors had melded beautifully and so froze it in half-filled 3 oz Dixie cups.

    I see delicious eating in my future.


  25. I’ve never heard of sage pesto, but what an interesting idea! Sage remains–sadly–an under-utilized flavor in our kitchen. Too often relegated to status as a Thanksgiving stuffing-star and nothing else.

  26. Sage and Pecan pesto, great post! All my sage recipes use up like 10 leaves at a time maximum.

  27. I love pecans in pesto. And the sage sounds lovely. Perfect for fall recipes!

  28. I planted several sage plants this summer, mostly because I think the leaves are beautiful and decorative. I really never thought about making anything with them – thank you for opening my eyes. As soon as I finish making lunches, I am going to run outside and see what my sage is up too!

  29. Oh wow, your pesto turned out great!! Glad you could use up some of your sage!!

  30. Your sage leaves from the garden look beautiful! I tend to use more sage in the autumn and winter – so the freezing this pesto will be a great option!

  31. Here’s a pesto recipe using multiple herbs I post recently. You might find this one interesting.

  32. I saw the title of this post and instantly thought walnuts! (that is what I have right now). Then I read the post. Sounds divine. Will definitely be making the walnut version as I have a sage surplus too.

  33. I have never considered using sage in pesto: now I will try. I have some pineapple sage in my herb garden that I cannot keep up with. I also like the choice of pecans.

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