Make Pesto Alla Genovese at Home

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About: I love cooking and craft-work. I write a blog about the cooking part, and add in my travel experiences.

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.

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    23 Discussions

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    Mmmmatt

    5 weeks ago

    Looking forward to trying this!
    Any chance you could measure what you mean by 'a bunch of basil'? The number of grams would probably be the easiest to replicate in case people have access to different types of basil.
    Thanks for the post!

    4 replies
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    ItaliankiwiblogMmmmatt

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    I just bought some basil and weighed the leaves for you. My guesstimate was right: it's 40 grams (1.4 oz).

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    ItaliankiwiblogMmmmatt

    Reply 5 weeks ago

    you're right, I should weigh it! I'm going to make some pesto this week, if I can find some good basil. When I do, I'll weigh the leaves. My guess for the moment is that a "big bunch" would be about 40 g of leaves.

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    Mmmmatt Italiankiwiblog

    Reply 5 weeks ago

    Also, I might have missed it but how many portions does this make?

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    ItaliankiwiblogMmmmatt

    Reply 5 weeks ago

    I depends what you do with the pesto after you've made it. If you use it for pasta, the amount that I made would be good for saucing pasta for about 6 people (600 g pasta). If you use it as a spread on bread, or meat, or tofu (limited by your imagination only!), then it's difficult to say. :)

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    dart70ca

    5 weeks ago

    Other names for Ligurian Basil? Haven't seen that one around here. West coast Canada.

    Update: Ligurian Basil is not obviously available just anywhere. You might get lucky and find a local seller; I bought seeds off an ebay seller for now.
    It is a variety of Sweet Basil but does not taste the same. Also known as Genovese Basil.

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    Italiankiwiblogdart70ca

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    Thanks for finding out its other name! Good luck with growing it!

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    lorenkinzel

    5 weeks ago

    But..... how did you manage to get the smell into the pictures? It is tearing me up with hunger!

    1 reply
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    nepperhanman

    5 weeks ago

    One of those odd things how a wonderful peasant food in the old country becomes gourmet and expensive here. When the price of pine nuts got to the level where I needed a loan to buy them, I thought what other nut is mellow and sweet like a pine nut, but will not break the bank? I know that walnuts are traditional but I find them bitter and have had the best luck using sweet mellow American pecans in my pesto. Just my 2 cents. Great recipe, thanks.

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    Italiankiwiblognepperhanman

    Reply 5 weeks ago

    Thank you! It can be difficult to find the same ingredients in different places. Once when I was staying at the beach in Tuscany I collected pine-nuts directly from pine trees in the campground and then made pesto with them. If the recipe had called for almonds, I would have had a big problem though! :D I've seen that almonds or cashew nuts are sometimes used when pine-nuts can't be had for love nor money. You could try one of those to get a similar effect. I agree that walnut would be too bitter. Interesting idea to use pecans!

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    t.rohner

    5 weeks ago

    I love freshly made pesto. Instead of pine nuts, try skinned almonds instead.
    In spring, we also make it from bears garlic (Allium ursinum), instead of basil.

    3 replies
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    carobeppet.rohner

    Reply 5 weeks ago

    The "Pesto alla Genovese" IS NOT an opinion. You don't have to try with something else. Alimonds and other vegetables are not in the original recipe, it is a different pesto, not pesto alla genovese. These modifications are an offence to italian cookery and to italian culture; it is good to experiment other recipes, but call your recipe in a different way ;)

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    t.rohnercarobeppe

    Reply 5 weeks ago

    I didn't call my variations Genovese and it's about good food and not religion...
    When i'm in Italy, most cooks i meet are pretty relaxed about such details.

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    Italiankiwiblogt.rohner

    Reply 5 weeks ago

    Oh yes! Almonds are very tasty too! In Sicily they make a fantastic pesto with pistachio nuts. The bears garlic pesto must be really delicious.

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    Yes, you're absolutely right. It does taste more authentic when ground with a mortar and pestle and it is less "blended", but in the end, it also tastes great with a blender, which many people have in the kitchens. The ease of blending it may motivate people not from the region to try to make the pesto themselves. If a mortar and pestle is insisted on, it could daunt people so that they don't even try to make it.

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    relbatto

    5 weeks ago on Step 7

    That something so simple and fast could be so incredible... is hard to feature if you haven't tried it. I live in Oklahoma where the velveeta is kept in the gourmet section.(spelled grommet here)... Pine nuts are either unheard of or delivered by Brinx. I use cashews or macadamia and a pinch of rosemarry. Thanks for sharing and people TRY this.!!!!!

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    Italiankiwiblogrelbatto

    Reply 5 weeks ago

    That is the great thing about pesto; that things can be changed here and there to suit what you have available. It is VERY frightening that Velveeta is in the gourmet section where you live. LOLOL!

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    aidoru

    5 weeks ago on Step 8

    I was born in Liguria and reading the pesto recipe outside Italy is a real honor, I just wanted to say that the use of the mortar, instead of the blender, aims to avoid overheating of the ingredients, so if you really don't want to use the mortar, make sure you don't use a blender's speed too high and don't use it for too long, short blasts here is my thaw.
    And again congratulations !! :-)

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