Pesto Green Beans are perfectly steamed green beans tossed with homemade walnut basil pesto and toasted walnuts. Serve this simple yet elegant vegetable side dish for a quick weeknight dinner side or as part of a large holiday feast.
Pesto Green Beans
Move over frozen corn; there’s a new weeknight side dish in town! Pesto green beans are a tasty, convenient green bean recipe, ready in under 30 minutes.
This recipe makes a full cup of pesto, so you’ll have plenty left over for a quick and easy pasta the next day. Or, serve the beans with pesto pasta and leftover chicken for a creative and nutritious weeknight dinner.
Ingredients for Pesto Green Beans
Fresh green beans, also called String Beans, Snap Beans, French Beans, or Haricot Verts, are essential for this recipe. Select firm, bright green beans with a slight oval cross-section (not rounded) that feel full and not hollow.
The ingredients that make up the Walnut Basil Pesto are essentially the same as you would find in Genovese-style pesto, with walnuts in place of the pine nuts.
- Fresh Basil
- Parmesan Reggiano
- Olive Oil
I like to add fresh lemon juice and zest to brighten up the flavour of the pesto. The juice also keeps the colour of the basil a bright green for longer.
You can use any kind of nuts in pesto. However, note that some nuts like pecans may add a bit too much sweetness. I like to toast the walnuts first to release their aromatic oils and maximize their flavour.
Parmesan Reggiano is the most common hard Italian cheese found in pestos. However, you can also use Pecorino Romano, Asiago, or Grana Padano.
Why Do Green Beans Change Colour?
Do you ever wonder why vegetables like green beans and peas turn a dull colour after cooking? You’ll notice that when fresh beans cook, their colour turns a bright green. This colour change happens when heat removes the intercellular air molecules, making the beans become more transparent.
If you continue cooking the beans past this crispy tender point, they’ll turn a dull ‘olive green’ colour due to changes within the plant cells themselves. Once this happens, the beans are overcooked. Cook them even further, and the cell tissues break down further, resulting in a mushy mess.
How to Cook Green Beans
There are many ways to cook beans. If you want them to remain crisp and tender with vibrant green colour, I suggest either steamed or blanched green beans. The two methods differ slightly, though they both end with an icy plunge in a bowl of ice water.
This final cooking step immediately stops the bean from cooking and interrupts the changes within the bean on a cellular level. By the way, the cooking time will vary based on the chosen cooking method.
Steaming Beans: Place beans in a metal or enamel colander and bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Place the colander over the boiling water. Cover and steam for 5-7 minutes. Immediately transfer cooked beans to a bowl of ice water.
Blanching Beans: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add green beans and boil for 2-3 minutes only. Drain the beans, then immediately transfer them to a bowl of ice water.
How to Make Walnut Basil Pesto
The traditional Italian way to make pesto is in a marble mortar using a wooden pestle to pound the ingredients into a paste. You can also use a food processor to make pesto, though most Italian nonnas would disagree with using this modern appliance.
Let’s begin by toasting the chopped walnuts in a frying pan over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes. You want them to become fragrant and release a bit of oil. Once they are golden brown, remove them from the heat and set them aside.
To make the pesto, add fresh basil, 1/4 cup walnuts, salt, garlic, Parmesan cheese, lemon zest and half the lemon juice to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the mixture a few times. Then, with the motor running, slowly drizzle in 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Remove pesto from the food processor and stir in another 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Putting It All Together
Place the beans in a large bowl, then add 2 Tablespoons of pesto to the bowl. Gently toss the beans with pesto until they are evenly coated. Arrange the pesto green beans on a platter or serving dish and top with extra chopped toasted walnuts and chopped fresh Italian parsley.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Since these beans don’t take very long to cook, they are best steamed or blanched just prior to serving. However, the pesto can be made ahead of time. Pesto stores and freezes really well, making it a great option to have on hand for last-minute meal ideas.
To store the pesto in the fridge, place it in a jar and top with a thin film of olive oil. This will protect the basil from being exposed to air and prevent colour oxidation of the basil. Pesto will keep in the fridge for up to a week.
Alternatively, freeze the pesto in portion sizes and use it whenever you need a flavour boost for soups, stews, pasta sauces, and easy pasta dinners.
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- 1 lb green beans
- 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons walnuts; chopped
- 3-4 cups fresh basil
- lemon; zested and juiced
- 1 clove garlic; chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese; finely grated
- 4 Tbsp. Olive Oil
- 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley; chopped
Toast the chopped walnuts in a frying pan over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes or until they become fragrant and release a bit of oil. Remove from heat and set aside.
To Make the Pesto
- Add fresh basil, 1/4 cup walnuts, salt, garlic, Parmesan cheese, lemon zest and half the lemon juice to the bowl of a food processor.
- Pulse the mixture a few times. Then, with the motor running, slowly drizzle in 3-4 Tablespoons of olive oil.
To Make Pesto Green Beans
- Wash and prepare the beans by removing the stem ends.
- Place green beans in a steamer basket, metal colander, or vegetable steamer. Cover and steam for 5-7 minutes.
- Toss the warm beans with 2 Tablespoons pesto. Arrange on a platter and garnish with toasted walnuts and chopped parsley.
This pesto recipe makes a generous amount of pesto. You may halve the recipe or keep the rest in the fridge for up to a week.
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Cuisinox Serving Tongs, 6", Silver
Sweese 742.101 Oval Serving Platters, White Porcelain Serving Platters for Party, Large Oval Serving Trays Serving Plates for Fish Dish, Steak, Restaurant, Dessert Shop, Set of 3, 12.5/14/15.5 Inches
Hamilton Beach Stack & Snap Food Processor and Vegetable Chopper, BPA Free, Stainless Steel Blades, 12 Cup Bowl, 2-Speed 450 Watt Motor, Black (70725A)
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 308Total Fat: 24gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 22mgSodium: 721mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 5gSugar: 5gProtein: 12g
Recipe calculation was provided by Nutritionix and is an estimation only. If you need nutritional calculations for medical reasons, please use a source that you trust.