Nut-Free Basil Pesto with Pecorino Romano

Those of us with allergies need to have a quick and easy recipe for no-nut pesto at the ready.

Serving Size: Makes about 1/2 cup

Nut-Free Basil Pesto with Pecorino Romano / Mia / Katie Workman /

I’m in a big pesto place right now.  I guess some people might feel like pesto is a kind of “yesterday” food, but I have never been too much into food-is-fashion, and it’s just so amazing and versatile.

Nut-Free Basil Pesto with Pecorino Romano / Mia / Katie Workman /

I do love it on pasta, but I also love to stir a spoonful into rice, maybe this Scallion Tomato Rice, or soup, or to  dot some on hot pizza, or use it on a crostini.

Nut-Free Basil Pesto with Pecorino Romano / Mia / Katie Workman /

And I always make it myself because:

1) it’s easy, and 2) I’m allergic to nuts.

Even though you can buy nut-free pestos (or pistous as they are sometimes called), nuts are so frequently connected to the idea of pesto that the whole notion just makes me nervous.  If the label say no nuts then it’s a mental thing, clearly.  But pesto is so simple to make that I’m always happy to remove any back-of-the-mind concerns and make it myself.  Plus, you always get a super fresh result with your own ingredients, especially at the height of basil season.

Nut-Free Basil Pesto with Pecorino Romano / Mia / Katie Workman /

Parmesan is the cheese most often used in pesto, but another option (and a slightly cheaper one) is Pecorino Romano, made from sheep’s milk.  You can buy it in chunks or already grated (Gasp! Oh no, how could you? Well I do, all the time).  It’s quite salty though so when you use it, taste before salting as you would normally do.

This is a pretty thick pesto, a real paste, and if you want a thinner pesto for drizzling or tossing with hot pasta you could add some hot water from cooking the pasta, or some extra olive oil.

Nut-Free Basil Pesto with Pecorino Romano / Mia / Katie Workman /

You can freeze pesto, so it makes sense to make a big batch when a windfall of basil comes your way.  Is there anything more depressing than throwing out unused extra herbs?  Well, sure, there are plenty of more annoying things in the world, but still, why do it if you can help it?

You could use the ice cube tray trick, but ice cubes take a while to defrost, plus they are all the same size, so later in the month you may want 1 teaspoon or 1/4 cup pesto, and then those cubes might not work.  I use a similar technique to the way I freeze tomato paste – smushed out in a thin layer in a zipper top freezer bag. So easy, takes up almost no space, and you break off pieces in the sizes you need, as you need them.

Nut-Free Basil Pesto with Pecorino Romano / Katie Workman /

More ideas?  An omelet, a dip, with meat, in a grilled cheese, and the list continues to grow.  Fellow pesto-fans, what do you use it on?

Nut-Free Basil Pesto with Pecorino Romano


  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, or more as needed
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Kosher salt, as needed

1. Place the garlic and basil in a food processor or blender and pulse until everything is roughly chopped. Add the oil and pepper and process, scraping down the sides, part way through, until everything is well blended.  If it is very thick, add a bit more olive oil.  Add the cheese and pulse until blended in. Taste and add salt if needed.

Nut Free Basil Pecorino Pesto close up

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9 thoughts on “Nut-Free Basil Pesto with Pecorino Romano”

  1. Sue S says:

    Thank you! I am allergic to nuts as well, and have been looking for a good nut-free pesto recipe for all the basil my garden is producing this year. I made this, and it is really yummy! Thank you again!

  2. Kelly says:

    Looking forward to trying this! I’m going to use it in a pesto infused lasagna recipe I found… it is possible to make this pesto ahead of time & if so, how long does it keep?


    1. Katie Workman says:

      it will keep for at least 4 days!

      1. Kelly says:

        Thanks for letting me know! :-)

    2. HB says:

      Now I want the pesto infused lasagna :)

  3. Pat says:

    Add 3 well crushed Cream Crackers in replacement for nuts, it gives it a nice consistency

    1. Katie Workman says:

      That’s a good thought!

  4. Brendan says:

    I added some capers for a little tang. Nice recipe.

    1. Katie Workman says:

      oh nice idea!

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