Introduction: Make Pesto Alla Genovese at Home

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Summer is on its way so I'm planting basil seeds all over the garden in the hope of getting a huge crop of basil going. One of my go-to dishes when I want to make dinner in a hurry is pasta with pesto, as everyone loves it. I figure it must be very good for you to thanks to all that bright green basil! You can make fresh pesto faster than the time it takes to boil the water for the pasta, which gives it another boost as far as I'm concerned.

I used to just use the jarred stuff until one day an Italian friend showed me how easy it was to make. Freshly-made pesto and the glop from a jar are almost two different things. Be warned, once you’ve made it once, there’s no going back to anything that is bottled and calls itself pesto!

The word pesto actually comes from the dialect word "pesta" in Genova, Italy, which means "to crush". This actually means that pesto can be theoretically made of any ingredients that are crushed and blended together in to a paste. this is why I am specifying that this recipe is for pesto alla genovese, which is traditionally full of basil.

Step 1: The Ingredients

  • Approximately 40 g/ 1 large bunch of basil (preferably Ligurian basil with large rounded leaves)
  • 40 g/ 2 Tbsp Pine nuts
  • 80 - 100 ml/ 1/4-1/3 cup Olive oil . Depends on the amount of basil in the bunch.

  • 50 g/ 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

  • 1 clove Garlic

  • Salt to taste

Step 2: Prepare the Basil Leaves

Pick all the basil leaves off the stems, then rinse them.

Either spin them in a salad spinner, or blot them dry with kitchen paper towels.

Step 3: Prepare the Other Ingredients

Using a sharp knife, chop the Parmesan cheese into small chunks.

Peel and roughly chop the clove of garlic.

Step 4: Time to Make the Pesto

You can use a mortar and pestle if you would like to be traditional. I prefer to use my small food processor.

Put the basil leaves in the processor bowl. If they do not all fit, pulse the blades to chop them a little so they decrease in volume, then add the rest of the whole leaves.

Step 5: And Now for the Rest

Add the garlic, Parmesan cheese, and pine-nuts.

Add 4 Tbsp of olive oil and start the food processor. Let it run until you have a thick paste of finely chopped ingredients.

If you are using a mortar and pestle, grind all the ingredients by hand until they are in tiny pieces.

Step 6: Nearly Finished

Once the ingredients have been chopped up, you can start to add the olive oil.

Add a few tablespoons at a time, then pulse the pesto between each addition.

Step 7: Decide on the Consistency You Want

Stop adding oil once you have reached the desired consistency of the pesto. Some people like it more roughly chopped with small pieces of each ingredient still discernible, and others like it to be more runny and blended to a green puree. You can see two different versions in the photos above.

Step 8: An Idea for Eating Pesto, Straight From Liguria in Italy

My favourite way of eating pesto is a specialty from the western coast of Italy. Cook spaghetti and chopped cubes of potato together. Add green beans halfway through the cooking. Drain the pasta, then smother it in pesto.

Once you have made the pesto, you can keep it in the fridge in an airtight container, or under a layer of olive oil for up to a week. It can also be frozen.

When you have mastered the basic recipe you can play around with it according to your taste, by adding more of something, or less, or omitting the garlic altogether if you can't digest raw garlic well.