Introduction: Pesto

Picture of Pesto
Fall in love with Pesto. It's good for you!

Fresh, simple and delicious, this go-to classic is better than anything you can buy. Plus, homemade pesto ensures you are getting all the benefits from fresh, nutrition-dense ingredients.

What nutrients you say?

  • Pesto gets its fat from olive oil and pine nuts, which are both high in healthy unsaturated fats. Pine nuts are nutrient dense and, along with the basil, make pesto a good source of many nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K and many minerals.

But why this recipe?

  • I've spent years experimenting with recipes to find my perfect pesto. It's a privilege to share with you now my favorite take on this classic recipe. It's not just for pasta anymore!

Step 1: Ingredients

Picture of Ingredients
Use the finest, freshest ingredients you can find, and I will assure you will amazed with the results.

  • Basil - I used about 4oz.
  • Parmesan cheese - time to splurge on the good stuff - avoid the stuff in a can! I used about 2/3 cup
  • Pine nuts - 1/2 cup
  • Garlic! I used 3 cloves. If you're not a huge fan of the brashness of raw garlic, start with less and add more to taste. Get fresh, not that jarred stuff!
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 1 cup - not 'virgin olive oil', not 'olive oil', not 'light olive oil.' Get the BEST you can afford. All olive oil is not created equal, and the difference will astound you.

Step 2: Prep Your Ingredients

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I love basil. But it's better without the stems :P

  • Pick the leaves off the stems.
  • Wash thoroughly and let drip-dry. Unless you have a fancy salad-spinner-centrifugal-force machine. Then do that.

I love pine nuts. I love them more when they've been lightly toasted.
It took me a while to learn that pine nuts don't get toasted in a toaster. Bad idea. They take forever to brown, then once you blink, they're black. You toast pine nuts in a dry, hot pan!

Since this is my preferred method of ingesting pine nuts, I toast them before adding them to the pesto. Totally optional. Do what you like. But if you want to be awesome, you'll toast them like me.

  • Heat empty pan over high heat
  • Add pine nuts
  • Toss continuously until golden brown and aromatic

I love garlic.

  • Peel your garlic. That's it! You'll use a food processor to smash it all up.

I love parmesan!
Buttery, delicious, artisanal Parmesan cheese - once I tasted the good stuff, I was a convert for life.

  • Shred your cheese before adding to mixture for best, most consistent results

Step 3: Mash It Up!

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You'll want a food processor or a blender.

I hate my blender.
I used a food processor. The food processor I have is tiny. But not to worry! I did it in batches, but I really believe I could have crammed all that delicious pestoness into the tiny chamber with equally delicious results.

  • Add garlic and pine nuts to processor.
  • Spin! Achieve uniformly chopped bits.
  • Add extra virgin olive oil
  • Add basil. Cram it in - it can take it. Just when I thought the leaves would be stuck hopelessly above the spinning blades, they were sucked down into the whirling vortex of delicious.
  • Blend until your pesto is evenly chopped and creamy - you'll know when it's ready for you

(If you're batching it like I did, take out some of the processed garlic/pine nuts before adding basil + oil and divide them all up in thirds or so.)

Step 4: The Cheese Stands Alone

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But scooch! you say. What about the cheese? You've forgotten!

Oh no! I say. Do not add the cheese if you plan to freeze any of your pesto.
Even though I freeze shredded cheese all the time to use in quesadillas and omelets (since you asked), it definitely loses something in the translation. For the finest pesto time after time, add your cheese right before consuming.

Step 5: Send in the Cheese

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It's go time.

  • Separate the stuff for freezing from the stuff for eating.
  • Freeze the former, return the latter to the processor.
  • Add shredded Parmesan
  • Blend to your heart's content.

A few final notes from me:
I like to add a bit of salt and a bit of sugar to the final blend. I do it only to the batch that's ready for consumption so I can alter the others as I like.
I'm toying with the idea of hot sauce in the next one. . .

Step 6: Freeze or Consume

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Pesto is great in so many things.
Pasta (obv.), but also as a pizza sauce, on bruschetta, in a sandwich, over fish, lamb, steak! Add it to a soup, stir it in your hummus, mix it up in your hamburger. Have it for breakfast - it's great in an omelet! Yay pesto!

I freeze up most of my batch to drop into dishes months down the road. But don't overheat your pesto or you will be sad.

Enjoy!

Comments

Jena Plissken (author)2016-08-01

Hi, I'm Italian, great recipes but use an electric grinder kil the "pesto".

Better taste with a Ceramic mortar! Use your hand and a lot of elbow grease!!!

Taste the difference, Italian does it better:-)

TheCritic (author)2012-02-25

Fantastic

peacegirl613 (author)2011-06-15

It is a bright green pesto in the picture.

Anidion (author)2011-02-01

I was wondering how many leaves of basil would be needed?

Thanks

T3h_Muffinator (author)2009-06-04

Hey Scooch! I may have skipped over it by accident, but how much olive oil should I add? J. and j. are planning on pesto-ing it up tomorrow for dinnars!

Oopsie poopsie! Good catch - it's one cup.

maxstevenson (author)2009-04-26

Oh Scooch, I say! What a great instructable! Have you tried cilantro/arugula (rocket) pesto in the winter when there is not fresh basil? (maybe there is basil from the green house, but it is expensive). I love it on pizza. If you have vegan friends I substitute soy sauce for the cheese, it works!

scoochmaroo (author)maxstevenson2009-04-27

Thanks! I actually have a distaste (see how polite I'm being?) for both cilantro and arugula, but I think boyf would definitely love it.

Cartermarquis (author)2009-04-23

I know my parents make pesto from basil from their garden, and replace the pine nuts with cashews. Tastes delicious, though!

Yes! I also recommend walnuts for those who can't find/afford pine nuts.

steveastrouk (author)2009-04-25

Our recipe is very similar to yours, but it has unsalted butter in it too. Is this is a North/South Italy variation I wonder ? We can't grow basil outside here, its not reliably warm enough, but we grow it hydroponically to the point where a single plant will create two full batches of Pesto ! Even the young leaves end up really big, but still tender. Steve

scoochmaroo (author)steveastrouk2009-04-27

I would love to learn how to grow basil. I know it sounds totally easy, but I just can't seem to get the hang of it. I always kill the little sucker. Maybe I over-water? Maybe I prune it too much? I don't know, but I have had no success.

eranox (author)2009-04-26

I love your instructables! Pesto is wonderfulness. As soon as I get back to the States, I'm mixing up a big batch. Never toasted my pine nuts before...can't wait to try it that way! Great 'ible!

Ananand (author)2009-04-24

I LOVE pesto! Have to try this!

t.rohner (author)2009-04-24

Pesto, i love it. I grow lots of basil every year. I sometimes just spread some on a freshly baked bread... Nice instructable

dustinbikes (author)2009-04-23

lol....."I love basil" "i love parmesan" "i hate my blender" too funny

catman529 (author)2009-04-23

I might try this recipe; basil is one of my favorites and I always grow it from seed in my garden.

lemonie (author)2009-04-23

Oooh lovely!

L

(I'm planning a pasta I'ble for the weekend, so I'll see if I can buy for pesto while I'm at it)

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Bio: Former Living & Food editor here at Instructables, now running Sousvidely.com! Follow me @sousvidely
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