book review, recipe

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine + Pasta al Pesto

I first heard about Gail Honeyman’s novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine when someone suggested it for one of my book clubs. I jotted it down, added it to the poll for September, hopped on the library wait list (just in case), and didn’t think much more about it. I’m actually glad I came into it with no real expectations because the whole experience turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

Eleanor Oliphant has worked in finance in the same small company her entire career. She is socially awkward and a bit of a curmudgeon, who is very reliant on her routine. A routine which includes eating pasta with pesto for dinner every night and drinking vodka until she passes out most weekends. Despite all of her peculiarities, Eleanor on the page is quite charming. My heart warmed to her, and I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions.

I’m excited to see what the rest of the book club thinks of Eleanor. I hope they enjoy her as much as I did! And while we chose to visit an Irish pub for our book discussion (as close to a British pub as we could find), I opted to make Eleanor’s favorite staple for today’s post – pasta with pesto.

I very much doubt she makes her own, but I couldn’t exactly plop some store bought pesto onto some pasta and call it a day. (However, if I had to make a recommendation for store bought pesto, I quite enjoy Trader Joe’s Pesto alla Genovese.) The pesto recipe I chose was so easy and delicious though, that I’ve been thinking of taking up my herb-growing again, just so I could have an abundance of basil and make this more often.

Best of all, it uses walnuts which are much more affordable than pine nuts – I think Eleanor would approve of that choice. To start, I toasted the garlic until it had some little brown spots.

Then, I moved them out of the pan to cool and toasted the walnuts as well. While those cooled, I assembled the rest of my ingredients – basil, parsley, grated parmesan, olive oil and salt and pepper.

I added everything to my food processor and blended everything until smooth.

I ended up having to add just a touch more olive oil, but use your best judgment as it comes together. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.

I tossed some ribbed penne pasta (great for the pesto to cling to) with my freshly made sauce, dished it up and topped with some extra parmesan cheese for good measure.

Use your pasta of choice, and if you have any leftover pesto, it will keep in the fridge for a short while, or it can be frozen. Enjoy!

Basil Walnut Pesto

  • Servings: 8
  • Print


  • 6 cloves garlic unpeeled
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • 4 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cup packed fresh parsley
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Toast the garlic cloves in their skin in a small skillet over medium heat, shaking often, until brown spots form, about 5 minutes. Remove to a small bowl to cool before peeling.
  2. Meanwhile, return the skillet to medium heat and add walnuts. Toast until fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes, shaking frequently to prevent scorching. Remove from heat.
  3. Combine peeled garlic, walnuts, basil, parsley, parmesan cheese, and olive oil in a blender or food processor; blend until smooth.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve as a topping on pasta (3/4 c. pesto per pound of pasta), as a spread on sandwiches, or as a garnish to soups.

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  • Reply Laura August 19, 2017 at 11:02 am

    I just finished this book this week and loved it so much! And that is the perfect recipe to accompany it 🙂

    • Reply Megan August 19, 2017 at 6:33 pm

      Glad you enjoyed the book too! 🙂 I knew right away this was the recipe I’d make for Eleanor – she is ALL about her pesto pasta. Thanks, Laura!

  • Reply Julie Wright August 19, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    A lovely post, as always 🙂
    Not read this book, but I am sure you have a talent for matching up the book and recipe 🙂
    Being allergic to Garlic, I do not think this is for me!

    • Reply Megan August 19, 2017 at 6:32 pm

      You’re allergic to garlic?! That’s so sad! I’ll have to make sure it’s not included in the recipe I choose for our coordinated book/posts, so you can try it too 🙂

  • Reply Nadia September 8, 2017 at 2:57 am

    This book has been selected as part of an expat book club that I am a part of. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to order it yet, but will do it soon! It looks interesting!

  • Reply Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku January 10, 2019 at 10:26 am

    Oh man. This pesto sounds delicious! My husband is a farmer, so we always have all sorts of weird things around. I have made all sorts of unique pestos because of this. In fact, we had turnip top/pine nut pesto last night. XD I think I have 6 different kinds of pesto in the freezer? Whatever gets the job done.

    I’m so glad you enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Eleanor is a surprising character, that’s for sure! I also didn’t know much about the book before picking it up, and I think that made for a better overall experience. I listened to the audiobook. Let me tell you, it made me cry. A lot. O_o I recommend this to all book clubs now. So thought-provoking!

    Do you recall much about your book club’s reaction to this book? I’d love to know!

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