Introduction: Pesto - Recipe With Basil, Garlic, and Pine Nuts

About: I helped start Instructables, previously worked in biotech and academic research labs, and have a degree in biology from MIT. Currently head of Product helping young startups at Alchemist Accelerator, previous…

Pesto is the perfect green food.

Serve it on pasta, witheggs, 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

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.

Step 2: Toast Pine Nuts

Toast a pan full of pine nuts over low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. They will smell nicely nutty when done. Take them off the heat before they reach the desired toastiness, as they'll continue cooking for a while afterwards.

Step 3: Add Other Ingredients

The traditional version:
Add pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, and salt to taste.
The olive oil controls the consistency- add more for a softer blend. More parmesan makes it more crumbly.

For freezing:
If you plan to freeze your pesto, don't add the cheese! It doesn't take freeze/thaws well, and is easy to add after you've defrosted. You can add lemon juice to prevent oxidation.

Freakish (but tasty) variations:
If the basil turns out to be slightly bitter, you can add some honey or agave nectar. Salt, pepper, chili powder, and Worchestershire sauce are frequent additions. Taste to see what you like. If you're trying to make vegan pesto by skipping the cheese, add more salt and up the nuts and weird flavorings to make up for the taste, as Parmesan is pretty strong!

You can make all sorts of wacky versions- forget tradition, figure out what tastes good to you, and create something new. If you come up with a particularly good pesto derivative, put it up as a new Instructable for everyone else to try!

Step 4: Finished

When you've added everything, the pesto should look something like this. If you add parmesan cheese, it will be lighter in color.

Now dump your pesto on pasta, spread it on bread and cover it with tomatoes, or make a pesto egg crepe.

Step 5: Freezing Instructions

I fill ramekins with the pesto, wrap them in saran wrap, label with the date, and freeze. Don't freeze it with the cheese; it's much better to freeze without, then add cheese after thawing.