Pesto - Recipe With Basil, Garlic, and Pine Nuts




About: I've been posting Instructables since the site's inception, and now build other things at Autodesk. Follow me for food and more!

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.

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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.



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    70 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 13 years ago

    I mean in place of the basil of course


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    13 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

    4 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Your message is great! Just one thing, Basilico Genovese is not enough, it has to be from Prà :-þ


    Reply 12 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.


    Reply 12 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. )


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    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 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