Pesto - recipe with basil, garlic, and pine nuts

Picture of Pesto - recipe with basil, garlic, and pine nuts
Pesto is the perfect green food.

Serve it on pasta, with eggs, with cheese, on crackers, with chicken or fish, worked into pasta or tortillas or with just about anything else that needs fantastic flavor. I recently ate some marinated artichoke hearts that had been tossed in pesto - they were excellent.

Step 1: Basil and garlic

Picture of Basil and garlic
Collect a large amount of Italian basil from your favorite farmers' market or yuppie supermarket. (Don't use Thai basil, as the flavor is strong enough to be bitter in pesto.) Wash and stem basil, then pat dry with a kitchen towel.

Pulse several cloves of garlic in the food processer, then add handfuls of basil until everything is chopped. The bowl will be a nice emerald green color.
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depotdevoid2 years ago
Thanks for the recipe, Christy.  I made some tonight with all the basil I could scrounge out of my garden, and it turned out great!  At first I was a bit intimidated by the lack of specific amounts of ingredients, but ultimately went with your instructable (over the others offered hereabouts) just for that reason.  I figured this would be my first try, so I can learn from it and see how the next batch turns out.  Definitely going with more basil next time!

A couple of slight variations I employed:
  • Pine nuts are CRAZY expensive!  $30/lb at my local Fred Meyer!  That's a tad out of my price range, so I bought about $7 worth and bulked it up with some sunflower seeds ($1.49/lb).  Worked great!
  • I used Romano cheese (again, the price of actual Parmesan cheese was more than my overstretched wallet could bear at the end of the month).  It was still really good cheese, and added a nice saltiness that really brought out the other flavors.
I don't have a great food processor, so the end result wasn't as smooth as I would have liked.  All in all though, everything turned out tasty and it went great with fettuccine.  I'll definitely try this again, with more basil and hopefully a better food processor.  Mine only handles about a cup at a time and isn't great at chopping things too fine.

Thanks again for the recipe, and here are a couple of pictures of the end result.
karl19699 years ago
Hey, it's also REALLY nice made with rocket!
I believe the comment refers to arugula (aka rocket , roquette, et al.).
See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arugula
Eruca Sativa, rucola in Italian. I love rucola pesto! Since I have all my pots infested by it, We often use rucola instead of basilico.
I mean in place of the basil of course
Pamigiano Reggiano-what is this? I live in a small town, I could only find a nice wedge of Parmesan.
canida (author)  italianirish7 years ago
It's basically a name-identifier for good Parmesan. You're fine with what you found.
rera canida3 years ago
I think You don't know the meaning of "DOP". Parmigiano Reggiano is only from Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and Mantova. You can have same cows in same climate, with same grass but You cannot call it Parmigiano.
Seth9 years ago
YOU GUYS ARE FRIGGIN HERETICS!!! What do I have to stand? Worchester sauce in pesto? SPINACH?!?
Seriously though, just for full reference, being the proud Italian I am, I'd like to offer you the original recipe for pesto. Of course the Pesto D.O.C. is a real pain in the ass to make (especially if you live outside of Italy) but I'm writing this just FYI

Ingredients for 600 gr. of pasta (yes, we use the metric system =þ )
Basil (Ocimum Basilicum) 4 bunches (HAS to be original Basilico Genovese =þ )
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: one glass (HAS to be made in Liguria =þ )
Grated Parmisan Cheese: 3 tablespoons (HAS to be "Pamigiano Reggiano" or "Grana Padano" D.O.P.)
Grated Pecorino Cheese: 3 tablespoons (HAS to be roman, tuscan, sicilian or sardinian pecorino)
Garlic: two cloves (HAS to be... you get the idea =þ )
Pine Nuts: one tablespoon (obtained from Pinus pinea, grew in the Mediterranean area bla bla bla)
Nuts (optional) from Juglans regia, grew in Europe
Salt: some grains

First: the original pesto genovese is not made in a blender, but in a marble mortar with a wood pestle.
Wash the basil with cold water and leave to dry on a cloth, meanwhile put one clove of garlic for every 30 leaves of basil in the mortar and pound them with the big grains of salt. After you're done add the basil leaves, a few at a time. Pound using a light rotatory movement. Remember: the essential oils of basil are found in the little veins of the leaves, and to get the best from them you have to pound gently rotating the pestle, not by squishing the leaves.
When the basil will start to drip a bright green liquid it's time to add the pine nuts. Again add a few at a time. After the pine nuts add the cheeses (few at a time) and at the end the oil, one drop at a time.
One last note: the preparation of pesto has to be done at ambient temperature and as quickly as possible to prevent oxidation.

There! If you followed all my instructions you now have the original Pesto alla Genovese, made using a century-and-a-half old recipe. If not, well it's pretty close to the original thing =þ
rera Seth3 years ago
I think the original recipe is only with “Pecorino Fiore Sardo” and Parmigiano Reggiano, not other cheese . Ah.. a curiosity: most "pecorino romano" comes from Sardinia.
rera Seth5 years ago
Your message is great! Just one thing, Basilico Genovese is not enough, it has to be from Prà :-þ
gowithflo Seth8 years ago
Amen, don't mess with traditional Italian cooking. Well you can but it ain't right, I'm sure the other one is good too if you are vegan and stuff.
canida (author)  Seth8 years ago
Traditional pesto is certainly awesome- you should post this recipe as its own Instructable, complete with pictures of your mortar and pestle in action! (This is an intentionally bastardized version made to fit my tastes and needs, which include freezing and tasting good without cheese. )
Ya beat me to it! Just the way I make mine. Well, here's my video but it looks like you've got it covered:

I know this was posted awhile ago, but if you get a chance to read this, you have a great video put together! and I will be using it to make my own pesto tonight. Thanks a bunch!
So happy to hear the video is seeing some action.
dayersr875 years ago
Good source for pine nuts or pignoli nuts there are American organic grown they are superb in-shell raw or shelled raw there web sight is www.wholesalepinenuts.com a simple comment to let you know you don’t have to buy importer pine nuts any more. They have a bitter-free guarantee. Mike
fabrivassa5 years ago
you should use crushed almonds instead of pine nuts
solo.card5 years ago
Pestle and Mortar over a food processor every time.
prestonm5 years ago
OH MY GOD TRADER JOE'S YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sunkicked5 years ago
Nice recipe Canida. I made some today, though I altered the recipe a bit (I went super heavy on the garlic, went easy on the parmesan, and added a healthy dose of white pepper). I call it "Punch You In the Face Pesto". I'll try to get an Instructable up by the end of the week.
CHED F.B5 years ago
Thanks for the Instructable - well done, Pine nuts are pretty pricey in my supermarket and so I usually supplement with other nuts - blanched peeled almonds (I do the blanching peeling myself - Coffee cup+Almonds+Boiling water+a couple of minutes then a squeeze between the fingers)come out least expensive here - Basil grows pretty well in our warm climes - but bugs love it, I sometimes throw through some rough chop tomato and capsicum. It's a great quick meal - by the time I've boiled the water and cooked the pasta everythings ready to go - great green super food. Again many thanks I look forward to trying out some of your freakish variations.
tixylix9 years ago
fridge life: to stop the basil going dark, bitter and crappy after a few days: wash the basil, pat dry, then hang it (if it is still in a bunch) or spread it out on a tea towel and wait for it to dry. has to be dry. no excess water. stem the basil and stuff it in the food processor, then drizzle the oil so that the basil is all oily before you turn the food processor on. as the shredded basil is immediately smothered in oil it won't have the chance to oxidise (or whatever) and turn dark green and bitter. you should be able to make a big batch and keep it in the fridge for a month. other tips: for the traditional basil pesto, sometimes i toast the pinenuts, sometimes not, sometimes half and half. walnuts is heresy. of course, pesto just means paste, (or "pestled" if you prefer), so you can make up any recipe you like. basil, olive oil, pine nuts, cheese (pecorino or parmesan) garlic, salt pepper & chilli to taste. i only use a little salt, and add salt at the dinner table after it is served.
Phoghat tixylix5 years ago
I've got a nice recipe made from sun dried tomato, pistachios and the king of cheeses Parmigiano Reggiano
I prefer the pine nuts untoasted. The aromatics are incredible that way, toasting can ruin them.
nachobobs5 years ago
I always add a teaspoon or so of lemon juice in with the basil before I blitz it, this ensures it remains nice and green and vibrant.
Jayefuu5 years ago
Homemade pesto is so much better than any of the rubbish you buy in the shops. I do sort of agree with seth though, cheese cheese cheese! :) Nice photos btw.
ashi9 years ago
To prevent darkening add one capsule of vitamin C! Not only will you make the pesto bright green, you will also make it rich with vitamin C.
lemon or lime juice does this too.
Lemon/lime juice contains high amounts of citric acid and tends to turn things mushy... Also, they add a sour flavour to the pesto (which can actually be a bonus).
I'm vegan and I make pesto with basil, pine nuts, walnuts, nutritional yeast, garlic, and olive oil. The combination of walnuts and nutritional yeast can make up for parmesan cheese in pretty much any recipe. (:
Thanks for the vegan tip. Always welcome!
Do you blend it with the pine nuts in the food processor?
the blades basically crumble it to a very small size, but people call it "blended"
I could imagine.
Worcestershire sauce?? BLASPHEMER! : P I'll have to try some of your "modifications" sometime and see how they taste. FYI: I help make around 50 gallons of organic pesto every year for my father's healthfood store using the traditional recipe (fresh basil, garlic cloves, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, olive oil) and it freezes beautifully. Just pack your fresh pesto into smaller containers so you don't need to dethaw that much at a time, and move one from the freezer to the fridge when you are ready for another.
worchester: raisins and anchovies. both were vaguely common in old-school pesto, so it's not as strange as you'd think.
teersteeg9 years ago
Seth's (strange name for an Italian) "original" pesto is actually something culled from--what is it? 150 years ago? That would make it about 1856-- a year that I don't believe has had a profound effect on the annals of culinary greatness. Can you imagine other dishes popular in 1856? Honestly, I can't imagine eating anything that was popular back then--did they have refrigeration, running water, indoor plumbing, or did they even wash their hands before cooking? Even when I was a kid in the 40's the oldtimers were still using the "bacouzu" (a shed with a hole in the ground somewhere out in back of the house) as a toilet. Oh well. Thank the Great Pumpkin for my Cuisinart, for basil shipped in fresh daily from California, for garlic from the garlic capital of the world, Gilroy, CA, for sea salt from Spain, fresh pepper from Brazil, cold pressed olive oil from the boot of Italy, Reggianito cheese from Argentina, and pignolias from the hothouse of the orient: China! regards, Teersteeg Cape Cod
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