Some people swear by it as the food of love. Whether that's true or not, you can't deny the heavenly taste of basil pesto. Pesto is made from fresh basil, parmesan cheese, and extra-virgin olive oil, traditionally used to take the edge off a hardy Italian meal.
For this bright green pasta sauce and spread, start with 2 cups of fresh basil leaves. Then add olive oil, garlic, pine nuts or walnuts; Parmesan cheese; a dash each of salt and pepper. It all goes in a food processor and is blended until smooth. Pour over hot pasta and serve. Easy peasy, right?
What is Pesto?
There are many pesto variations (including ones made with tomatoes,) but this recipe is inspired by the version most popular in the US (Pesto alla Genovese, from Genoa, Italy. Pesto is made from basil, salt, pine nuts, and garlic. The main ingredient is always basil. While no heavy creams are in this sauce to raise Mark Bittman's sauce to pasta scale, managing a high sauce-to-pasta ratio with pesto would be hard. It's generally not very liquidy or full of chunky vegetables, but rather it provides a layer of flavor that clings to the pasta.
Basil is considered an essential ingredient in this variety of pesto, but you can add various herbs to your pesto to make it taste better.
Herbs & Spices
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- Garlic Cloves
- leafy greens (kale, spinach)
- seasonal veggies (zucchini)
Nuts & Seeds
- sunflower seeds
- Parmigiano Reggiano
- Pecorino Romano
Vegan pesto swaps
- bread crumbs
- nutritional yeast
How to make it
Toast the nuts in the oven at 350F for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove them from the oven to cool. Add the basil leaves and garlic to a food processor and a pinch of salt.
Process until finely chopped. Add the cooled nuts, then process again until finely chopped. Drizzle olive oil in a thin stream while the food processor is running. Add cheese and pulse until combined.
Taste and add more salt if needed.
Pesto is a rich and savory sauce with fresh herbs, nuts, and oil. It can be used as a pasta dip, spread, or topping.
Basil pesto is a green sauce typically served with pasta but is also fantastic as a spread on toast, dip, eggs, and anything savory.
Make a large batch of pesto and freeze it into portions, so you can enjoy it all fall and winter if you make it from basil when it's in season. Nothing is better in the cold winter than pulling out a few cups of summer basil for pasta or adding it to mayo as a sandwich spread.
How to store pesto and preserve it for later
We make pesto in batches once or twice a year when the garden basil is in full force, but it doesn't last long! So I like storing some in smaller mason jars if used quickly in the fridge.
Once in a container, add a thin layer of olive oil to the pesto and store it in an airtight container or ice cube trays in the freezer. Those pesto cubes will be handy for enjoying fresh basil flavor all year.
The bright green from the basil may be less vibrant after storing it in the freezer and maybe a bit brown, but it still is a delicious sauce. You can also keep your pesto in freezer bags and spread the sauce to the bags so they lie flat in the freezer. Make sure to top freezer bags with extra virgin olive oil to keep your herbs looking as fresh as possible.
- 2 cups of fresh basil leaves.
- olive oil
- pine nuts or walnuts
- Parmesan cheese
- a dash of salt and pepper
- Toast the nuts in the oven at 350F for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove them from the oven to cool. Add the basil leaves and garlic to a food processor and a pinch of salt.
- Process until finely chopped. Add the cooled nuts, then process again until finely chopped. Drizzle olive oil in a thin stream while the food processor is running. Add cheese and pulse until combined.
- Taste and add more salt if needed.
Serving Size:1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Unsaturated Fat: 0g