Basil Pesto with Mayo?

The heat has been unbearable and it’s taking every ounce of my will power not to turn the air-con on the moment I get home. I am also running out of summer clothes and am this close to wearing my singlets to work (those things are quite airy).  It’s now wonder the malls are packed because with this Manila sun, free air-conditioning rocks.

The upside of this weather is that I tend to stay in my room longer, watching my favorite cooking shows. The other day, The Barefoot Contessa was featuring recipes for a portable picnic – simple recipes but sure to be crowd-pleasers like, basil pesto pasta, tomato feta salad and this scrumptious looking lemon cake.  My mind went crazy with excitement, trying to think of reasons to invite friends over so I could feed them.  Right now, I’m thinking, carbo-loading party!

Her recipe for basil pesto intrigued me because it involved an ingredient that I would never put in my pesto – mayonnaise! But I know better than to doubt the Barefoot Contessa and her culinary instincts. So without thinking twice, I went ahead and put a large dollop of mayonnaise into my basil pesto and lemme tell you… my basil pesto will never be the same again.  You don’t actually taste it in the pesto because the mayo emulsifies so well with the olive oil that it gives it a richness and a creaminess that you will certainly miss. I do suggest though that you use good mayonnaise such as the Japanese mayo.

Go ahead and try it. You can thank me later 😉

You can find all the recipes from that episode here.


  • 3/4 pound fusilli pasta
  • 3/4 pound bow tie pasta
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups pesto, packaged or see recipe below
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cups good mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1/3 cup pignolis (pine nuts)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Cook the fusilli and bow ties separately in a large pot of boiling salted water for 10 to 12 minutes until each pasta is al dente. Drain and toss into a bowl with the olive oil. Cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the pesto, spinach, and lemon juice. Add the mayonnaise and puree. Add the pesto mixture to the cooled pasta and then add the Parmesan, peas, pignolis, salt, and pepper. Mix well, season to taste, and serve at room temperature.


  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup pignolis (pine nuts)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic (9 cloves)
  • 5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups good olive oil
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Place the walnuts, pignolis, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Use right away or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.

Notes: Air is the enemy of pesto. For freezing, pack it in containers with a film of oil or plastic wrap directly on top with the air pressed out.

To clean basil, remove the leaves, swirl them in a bowl of water, and then spin them very dry in a salad spinner. Store them in a closed plastic bag with a slightly damp paper towel. As long as the leaves are dry they will stay green for several days.

* Recipe from



  1. sharon said

    what is the purpose of the mayo in this recipe? I don’t see the need for all the extra calories.

    • missmaimai said

      Hi, Sharon. The mayo adds a richness and creaminess to the pesto and makes it a lot tastier. Friends who tried it actually detected a difference but couldn’t quite put their finger on it. The recipe calls for 1 1/4 cup of mayo but I only put 1/4 cup because I also tend to count my calories. But like I said, it was worth it 🙂

  2. tina said

    Yum! is all I have to say. I am going to try this with salmon and rotini. I love Barefoot Contessa recipes especially her blueberry coffee cake muffins, soo moist. Thank you for trying and sharing 🙂

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: