This Pesto Recipe Ditches the Basil for Olives, and It’s Our New Go-To Pasta Sauce

January 5, 2020

The word “pesto” comes up, and everyone automatically thinks of the green sauce. But “pesto” is actually a generic term for any sauce that’s made from pounding; and the “pesto” we know is specifically pesto alla genovese. You can never go wrong with the classic basil base pesto. But for a change, we’re making our sauce with olives. Hey, it’s a new decade.

“New year, new me.” – Pesto

This olive pesto recipe produces a salty, earthy sauce, with just a hint of brightness from the sun-dried tomatoes. (There’s no crushed garlic here, by the way.) If nobody told us it was made with olives, we’d easily confuse it for some kind of mushroom pesto. There’s also a bit of texture from the tiny grains of walnuts, which actually help the pesto cling to the pasta. It’s surprisingly very light, and it doesn’t give you a heavy, guilty feeling after consuming a plate of the pasta it goes into.

Olive Pesto Pasta

  • Serves: 4 people
  • Active time: 45 mins
  • Total time: 45 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Special tools: Food processor


  • 2 cups black olives, pitted and drained
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • ¼ cup sundried tomato + 2 tbsp. oil from the jar
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese + more for garnish
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 500g rigatoni


  1. Add black olives, walnuts, sundried tomato, and ½ cup parmesan cheese to food processor.
  2. Pulse until no large chunks remain.
  3. While the motor is running, slowly drizzle in olive oil.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water.
  6. Once pasta is al dente, reserve ½ cup of the pasta water then drain the pasta.
  7. Return pasta and add in the olive pesto.
  8. Toss until coated, adding pasta water as needed to bring the sauce together.
  9. Serve on a platter and top with more parmesan.​
Jica Simpas Jica Simpas

Jica hopes that by writing about food she'll actually learn how to cook. But for now, she'll happily just eat everything—especially cookies.

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