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Pumpkin Seed Pesto

about 1½ cups

Chef notes

This atypical pesto is one of my favorites for winter because it has a sweet and warming flavor, even with the fresh sage and parsley in it. I love that the butternut squash stays kind of chunky, but it's cooked just enough that it also lends a creaminess to the pesto. This is a nut-free pesto, which is fantastic spread on a grilled cheese sandwich made with Gruyère, fontina or another Alpine cheese.


  • 1 cup large chunks butternut squash
  • 6 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup green pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • freshly ground black pepper



Preheat the oven to 450 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and spray with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, toss the butternut squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and a generous pinch or two of salt. Scatter the squash on the baking sheet in an even layer. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring halfway. Bake until the squash is tender yet caramelized on the edges. Let cool for 10 minutes.


Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the pumpkin seeds and 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and cook, stirring, until starting to toast, 2 minutes. Add the sage and cook until fragrant and the seeds are toasted, about 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat and cool.


In a large mortar, combine the toasted pumpkin seed mixture and parsley; use a pestle to crush them. Add the remaining 5 tablespoons of olive oil along with the balsamic, orange zest and nutmeg. Combine with a twisting motion of the pestle against the mortar. Add the squash and Parm, and continue to press down and mix the ingredients with the pestle. (If you do not have a mortar and pestle, you can use a food processor. Pulse all the ingredients except the olive oil and the butternut squash until combined. Pulse the mixture as you slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Transfer the pesto to a bowl and fold in the roasted butternut squash, mashing it a bit.) Season with a few pinches of kosher salt and black pepper. Using a spoon, mix to combine. The pesto can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week.

Adapted from Listen to Your Vegetables by Sarah Grueneberg and Kate Heddings. Copyright © 2022 by Green Mountain Collection, LLC. Reprinted by permission of Harvest, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.