You too can make this amazing Traditional Basil Pesto sauce at home! As you probably know, it’s great with pasta but there are so many other possibilities. Come and take a look at what else you can make with pesto sauce!
This, my friends, is the ultimate fast food.
It really is!
Italian cuisine is all about the quality of the ingredients and technique.
All you need are a few quality ingredients, a whirl in your food processor and just like that… presto…. you have pesto!!!
Granted, this is not the authentic way to make pesto. In fact, the word pesto (probably) originates from the Italian verb “pestare” which can be loosely translated as “to step on, to press or to crush”.
Naturally, a mortar and pestle quickly come to mind when thinking of pesto. You could, of course, make your pesto this way, but a blender or a food processor facilitates the whole process.
In fact, this pesto recipe can be made in less than 10 minutes and when combined with your favorite pasta, you have Pasta al pesto -a quick basil pesto pasta meal! Before I share with you all the wonderful ways you can use this basil pesto, let me show you how easy it is to make.
Genovese pesto ingredients
The pesto ingredients I have listed are for a traditional pesto sauce recipe. Needless to say, the key to making a great pesto sauce is using the best, high-quality ingredients. Let’s take a closer look at each of these ingredients before we make our fresh basil pesto.
As you can well imagine, we need basil to make this pesto.
It should be mentioned that there are many varieties of basil available, each contributing a different flavor. If available in your farmers’ market, try to get the sweet basil.
In Italian, these are referred to as pignoli nuts.
Another important ingredient in making this basil sauce.
There are some recipes that will use Parmigiano-Reggiano. Is one better than the other? Not necessarily. But what you need to know is that the amounts are not interchangeable.
Here is a great article explaining the difference between using Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheese in recipes. In summary “3 ounces of Parmigiano-Reggiano = 2 ounces of Pecorino Romano”.
If you are interested in learning more about Pecorino, this article will take you through the process of making this artisanal Romano cheese in Tuscany… a girl can dream 🙂
Extra virgin olive oil
A great pesto needs to have high-quality extra virgin olive oil. This is the only ingredient that is mandatory and irreplaceable.
How to make Pesto alla Genovese
So this whole process begins by rinsing your fresh basil, about 3 cups worth, and taking it for a spin in your salad spinner. Since we want the basil to be as dry as possible, spread the leaves out over a tea towel and allow to air dry while we get the rest of the ingredients together.
Only four tablespoons are required for this recipe. Before we add them to the food processor, we are going to toast them, but just for a couple of minutes since we want them to retain their creaminess. If you are looking for a nuttier taste, toast them for a little longer. As soon as they have cooled down, add them to your food processor.
This recipe calls for 2 cloves of freshly minced garlic. Yes, you read correctly -we need to mince the garlic before adding it to the food processor. This little step will ensure there are no larger pieces of raw garlic in the pesto sauce. Once again, personal preference will dictate the total amount of garlic cloves used.
We need to add about a ½ cup of freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese to the food processor.
So by now, your basil should be dry, your toasted pine nuts should be at room temperature and your cheese of preference is grated. Add them all to the food processor and pulse 4-5 times.
With the food processor on low, slowly drizzle the olive oil in the basil-garlic-nut mixture for about 30-60 seconds or until desired consistency.
And there you have it, with just a few simple ingredients, you can make a traditional basil pesto sauce.
How to store pesto
If not using immediately, here are some pro-tips to prevent the pesto from turning brown:
- mix in about ½ teaspoon of lemon juice;
- transfer to a jar and top with a little olive oil;
- place plastic film directly on top;
- and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
If you are planning to freeze the pesto, make sure you blanch the basil leaves. This simple process will prevent the basil from turning brown. Basically, you need a bowl of ice water and a pot of boiling water. Add the basil to the boiling water. Boil for 10 seconds. Remove basil and immediately plunge in the ice water. That’s it. You will now have basil so green that even the Incredible Hulk will be jealous. Once you make your basil pesto, drizzle a little olive oil over the top thus preventing contact with air and freeze.
What else can you use basil pesto sauce for besides pasta?
- use it as a spread in sandwiches, burgers or Piadina;
- stir it in soups;
- use it as a Pizza topping;
- use as a spread on baked/grilled chicken or fish;
- add a little more olive oil and spread it over Roasted Root Vegetables;
- mix it in your Crustless Quiche before baking;
- add a little olive oil and use it as a salad dressing;
- combine it with mayonnaise or yogurt when making potato, pasta or seafood salads;
- use as a spread when making Bruschetta;
…and more! Just remember the pesto we have made is much like a concentrate, so a spoonful goes a long way.
Can you use other herbs when making pesto?
Can you replace the pine nuts?
Absolutely. If pine nuts are not readily available to you, they can easily be replaced by walnuts, cashews, pecans, almonds or any combination of nuts. Just remember to give them a little toasting before using them in this basil pesto recipe.
Can you use roasted garlic in this recipe?
Of course! Using roasted garlic will create a milder pesto that is equally tasty.
There you have it -a simple sauce for pasta and so much more, made with just a few ingredients.
I’ve been making this basil pesto for decades, without a real recipe, just like my mom. I had to take out the measuring cups and the tablespoons for this one.
As always, feel free to experiment and switch things around. There really is no perfect recipe for pesto. The combinations really depend on what your personal preferences are. Play around with the amounts and the ingredients and have fun experimenting.
Did you know you can also make a garlic scape pesto? I also love to use this garlic scapes recipe with pasta.
I hope you can find 10 minutes and make this wonderful basil pesto… would love to hear about how you use pesto sauce!
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★★★★★ If you have made this pesto recipe, I would love to hear about it in the comments below and be sure to rate the recipe!
How to Make Fresh Basil Pesto
- ¼ cup pine nuts or walnuts
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ½ cup Romano cheese grated
- 3 cups basil leaves fresh, loosely packed, rinsed and dry
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Over medium heat, toast pine nuts in a pan on stove top for a few minutes. Set aside to cool down.
- Pulse together pine nuts, minced garlic, cheese and basil leaves in a food processor until coarsely chopped.
- Drizzle the olive oil while the food processor is whirling until smooth and thick, approximately 30-60 seconds.
- Season to taste.
This post was originally published on September 30, 2014 and republished on July 13, 2018 with updated content, photos and a video. Thanks for watching and sharing!