This pesto recipe is made out of fresh ingredients, like basil, Parmesan, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil. It is done in 15 minutes and everybody loves it on spaghetti pasta in my house.
What’s pesto anyway?
What actually pesto is ? Pesto recipe (sometimes spelled as pasto or to refer to the original dish pesto alla genovese ) is a sauce originating in Genoa, the capital city of Liguria, Italy. Traditionally it consists of crushed garlic, European pine nuts, coarse salt, basil leaves (herb) lemon, Parmesan cheese and all blended with olive oil.
Pesto can come in many varieties of herbs. It can be made out of Kale, parsley, tomatoes, arugula etc.
So when my garden has an abundance of basil, I make fresh homemade pesto. And you would be surprised how much flavour this green herb can give to a pasta dish. I am picking my last herbs, from the garden, because soon first frost will come here in Canada. And one of the herbs I had this year in my garden, and I had a lot of it this year, is basil.
Never heard of basil?
What is basil? I am sure most of you know what basil is, but I will still explain. Basil is a green culinary herb, also called great basil or Saint-Joseph’s-wort. Green basil has larger oval green leaf with pointy edge.
Basil is native to tropical regions from Central Africa to Southeast Asia. It is a tender plant, and is used in cuisines worldwide, mostly in Italy. Depending on the species and cultivar, the leaves may taste somewhat like anise, with a strong, pungent, often sweet smell.
What do you use pesto for?
Pesto is commonly used on pastas, gnocchi, potatoes, in lasagnes, on tomatoes, etc. Pasta, mixed with pesto, has become a well-known dish in the majority of countries today, with countless recipes. And let me tell you, when it’s made at home, freshly crushed from your garden picked basil, it is the best pasts you have ever eaten.
How to make pesto recipe
- fresh basil leaves
- raw pine nuts
- lemon juice
- sea salt
- extra-virgin olive oil
- grated Parmesan cheese
Start with fresh basil
So let me tell you what do you exactly need to prepare this heavenly pesto at home. We will start with the main ingredient, and it’s basil. If you have it from your garden, remove just the leaves of basil. If your basil leaves are large (as at the end of the season it might be) cut off the hard and thick stems.
All right, next it’s pine nuts, toast them, toasted are always better, give them a quick roast either in your little oven or on the stove skillet. Quick no oil, just little 5 min. roast with medium heat. Doesn’t need to take any colour from the roasting. It might stay white, just the little heat will give this toasty aroma.
Parmesan cheese is amazing in pesto
When choosing Parmesan , you don’t break your head, just take any Parmesan in the store, already grated is the simple solution for busy moms, but if you really want to have a mmm taste, go and grab nice Pamigiano-Reggioano (name of the cheese, a bit more expensive, but worth it) plus you can add a bit of sheep cheese Pecorino Sardo (not as easy to find as Parmigiano though). But as I said, with simple grated Parmesan, your pesto will be perfect.
Pine nuts or walnut nuts
Pine nuts are a real must, someone might suggest to use walnuts or pecan nuts, no no no! Usually pine nuts are now available at any store these days, it shouldn’t be hard to find. If you are allergic to nuts, just don’t use them, it won’t have this buttery taste, but it’s all right.
Walnut nuts are great as well, if you don’t have pine nuts on hand. I do prefer pine nuts, but walnuts are working well too.
Fresh garlic will bring little zing with few drops of lemon. And lemon will guarantee longevity of the green colour, as well as the safe storage.
Olive oil is one of the ingredient, which will smooth up the taste of pesto and calm the distinctive smell of basil. So please don’t worry, if you are overwhelmed by the scent of basil, it is only normal, fresh basil is very strong, but once mixed with all the other ingredients and especially olive oil, it will be just a pleasant scent of garden freshness.
Food processor last thing, what you will need is a food processor. I am sure, you must have one at your hand.
Bring all the ingredients together (except the olive oil) in the food processor and pulse at least 5 times, until it all blends together. Now slowly add the olive oil and pulse for three times, check the consistency you desire. I prefer a bit runny, so I use the whole olive oil written in the recipe. But some of you might want to have thicker consistency, so as you add slowly in the food processor the oil, check your desired consistency. If you want to have your pesto completely smooth, pulse a little longer.
Tips for best basil pesto recipe
If your basil leaves came from your garden, don’t wash them, this is one of my tricks, whenever I use basil (homemade grown) I never wash the leaves…and why? Because basil leaves will lose a bit of their aroma, once washed. And because of that aroma, we use, and we cook with basil leaves.
When the basil comes from the store, it’s a bit risky to let the basil leaves without washing them, unless it is specifically noted on the packaging, that is already pre-washed, I would rather rinse them quickly, because you never know, who touched them in the store right?
Quantity of oil, You don’t need to use the whole quantity of the olive oil, if you find that your pesto consistency is perfect after few spoons of olive oil, then you stop adding it. (Olive oils comes in different thickness or consistency, some of them are more runny than others, that is why I suggest going slowly with the olive oil, while adding it in your pesto mixture).
Creamy pesto, who not?
You can as well use few teaspoons of cream in your pesto, for creamier texture. I prefer the raw basil pesto, but for my kids I did add few drops of cream, they prefer it with lighter and creamier texture. Make sure you will be using it right away in your pasta.
How to store pesto
Transfer the pesto in small jar or bowl and use immediately on pasta or store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks. You may also freeze your pesto, either in Ziploc bags or in ice cube container, for up to 1 month. I personally do not freeze pesto, either basil leaves, because I find, that it looses its aroma completely. But it could be just my preferences, your freezer might have been better than mine. Do not store the pesto with addition of the cream. It would get spoiled quickly. Use it only in the portion, you will use immediately on pasta.
VEGAN TIP – For vegan option, use either vegan Parmesan (you can fins them in health stores) or 1 Tbsp of nutritional yeast (same, you find it in health store).
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HOMEMADE PESTO RECIPE
- ⅓ cup (45 g) raw pine nuts
- 2 cups (90 g) packed fresh basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ cup (125 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic roughly chopped
- ¼ cup (115 g) grated Parmesan cheese
- In a medium skillet, toast the pine nuts over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Set aside.⅓ cup (45 g) raw pine nuts
- To make the pesto, combine the basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, lemon juice, garlic and salt in a food processor. Pulse for 5 times, or until the ingredients will blend roughly together.⅓ cup (45 g) raw pine nuts, 2 cups (90 g) packed fresh basil leaves, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, 2 cloves garlic, ¼ cup (115 g) grated Parmesan cheese
- Now run the food processor on slow speed and slowly drizzle in the olive oil or can add it spoon by spoon. Continue processing until the mixture is well blended and smooth.½ cup (125 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- Serve over pasta or gnocchi. Enjoy!