A simple, classic basil pesto recipe perfect for pasta, on a sandwich, as a pizza sauce, garnish for soups, or paired with grilled meats. Only 5 minutes to make!
If you are Italian please do not read any further .... I'm pretty sure you were born instinctively knowing how to make Pesto Genovese. You were probably given a marble mortar and a wooden pestle before you could even walk and the multi-generational family recipe passed on to you from your Nonna or your Mama is ingrained on your brain like a tattoo. Consider yourself blessed. So just stop reading. Seriously.
Homemade Pesto Genovese aka Classic Pesto aka Traditional Pesto is AMAZING. Enough said. End of post. Buon appetito.
Not really. I have more to say (of course).
Pesto Genovese is a deceptively simple sauce to make. Throw some basil, pine nuts, cheese, salt, garlic, and olive oil in a food processor and let it whir until blended. Simple, right?
Errr...not so fast.
For a true classic Italian Pesto
Here's what you need in order to make this green gold.
- Find some D.O.P. basil from Genova (or regular basil from your local grocery store). You might have to fly to the Italian region of Liguria for this, but who wouldn't love a trip to Italy?!
- Grab some pine nuts off some pine cones (yep, they actually come from pine cones). You can find pine nuts in most grocery stores.
- Pick up a wedge of aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Pecorino cheese, specifically Fiore Sardo Pecorino if you want to be authentic (or from Costco because they have some of the best prices on these two kinds of cheese).
- You'll need a
coupleof garlic cloves from Vessalico (small town about 56 miles southwest of Genova...road trip!), but your local garlic will be just fine too.
- Pinch of Kosher salt.
- And while you're at it be sure to get some D.O.P. extra-virgin olive oil from the Italian Riviera. Or ask your local grocer which extra-virgin olive oil they recommend. Higher quality olive oil makes for a better pesto.
This pesto could provide for a really lovely trip along the Mediterranean. And some really expensive pesto.
Since us normal folk aren't typically able to go jet-setting each time we would like fresh pesto I think it's time to break some Pesto Genovese rules. And if you're Italian and still reading this, don't tell your Nonna. My ingredients are sourced from my local grocery store. And they won't be D.O.P.
Step by step instructions
While a marble mortar and a wooden pestle are the "correct" method for making pesto, I'm taking the easy/fast route and using my food processor. I LUU-UH-UHHHVE my food processor. It makes the world of cooking easier in many ways, with homemade pesto
There are also rules regarding the order in which the ingredients should be incorporated. I typically stick to these rules. Sometimes sticking to the rules is worthwhile. I repeat, sometimes...
Step 1: Begin by processing the garlic and pine nuts together.
Step 2: Once the pine nuts and garlic are pulverized, add the basil and salt. Then add the cheeses.
Step 3: Finally, add the olive oil in a thin stream, pulsing the processor until the ingredients have incorporated.
And just like that, we have pesto. Easy peasy!
In no more than 5
- grilled meats
- a flavorful spread for a grilled sandwich (grilled cheese!)
- a garnish for soups
- a swoon-worthy sauce for this Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chicken & Sun-Dried Tomatoes (make for dinner tonight!).
Yummm. The options for including pesto into your meals is endless.
You might even catch someone in your household eating it by the spoonful (Husband, I'm looking at you).
- Be sure to rinse your basil and thoroughly pat the leaves dry before tossing them into your food processor. Or use a handy salad spinner to dry them.
- Toasting the pine nuts prior to adding them into the pesto is a little flavor enhancer that makes this pesto even yummier.
- Pine nuts are fairly expensive so feel free to mix up your pesto with some other tasty nut options like walnuts, almonds, pecans, or macadamia nuts.
- You want to make sure that your garlic, particularly if your garlic cloves are large, doesn't overpower the other flavors of the garlic. I typically use 1-2 cloves of garlic in my pesto. Consider adding just a little garlic at a time making sure you can still taste the other flavors of the pesto.
Likely one of your ingredients is the culprit. Check to make sure your pine nuts have not gone rancid. It may also be your basil leaves. If the basil plant they came from already went to flower the leaves will develop a bitter flavor.
Absolutely! In fact, 'raw' pesto is the best way to eat it! It is okay to heat pesto and serve it warm on pizza, pasta, etc. but prolonged exposure to high heat can impact the wonderful of it.
In Italy, basil pesto is traditionally served with trofie pasta, a short, twisted pasta from Liguria, Northern Italy. However, I love pesto on just about any type of pasta! Penne, fusilli, linguine, fettucine, gnocchi, tortellini...eat it on any pasta you enjoy!
What are you waiting for?! Whip up some homemade Pesto
More tasty sauces & dips!
- Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto a tasty variation on the classic version
- Smooth & Creamy Hummus a quick dip that everyone will love
- 5-Minute Green Garlic Dip a tasty dip for all the garlic lovers!
- 5-Minute Peanut Sauce serve with veggies, noodles, or spring rolls
Did You Make This Recipe?!
If you make this recipe, I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment and a star rating below! I greatly appreciate your feedback and it is also so helpful for other PMST readers who are thinking about making the recipe. Remember to snap a photo and tag @passmesometasty on Instagram so I can see!
- Prep Time: 5 mins
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: Makes about 1 ½ cups 1x
A simple and classic pesto recipe perfect for pasta, on a sandwich, as a pizza sauce, garnish for soups, or paired with grilled meats.
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 4 cups packed fresh basil
- pinch of salt
- ½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
- 3 Tbsp Pecorino cheese, grated
- ⅓ - ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Pulverize the garlic and pine nuts in a food processor.
- Add basil and a pinch of salt. Pulse until finely minced.
- Add the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino and pulse the food processor a few times.
- Add the olive oil in a thin stream, pulsing the processor until the ingredients have incorporated.
- When storing, place in the smallest airtight container possible and drizzle a little olive oil over the top. After each use, continue to cover the top with a little more olive oil to preserve herbs. Refrigerate for up to a week. Pesto can also be frozen for several months.
The equipment section above contains affiliate links to products I use or recommend.
Pesto can be easily adapted to please your specific tastes. So if you prefer it to be nuttier, cheesier, or more garlicky just add a little more of that ingredient.
- Category: Sauce
- Method: Food Processor
- Cuisine: Italian
- Diet: Gluten Free
Keywords: pesto recipe, basil pesto, pesto genovese, sauce recipes
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This recipe looks awesome! I've seen a lot of recipes that call for roasting the pine nuts and garlic. Would it be ok to do that? Or would the texture change mess up the recipe?? Plan on making this tomorrow night with a friend! Thanks
Julia, it would definitely be okay to roast the pine nuts and garlic first! It would give the pesto a slightly nuttier flavor from roasting the pine nuts and the roasted garlic would help to mute the garlic flavor if you're not a fan of the intensity that raw garlic typically lends to pesto. The overall texture should be fine. And since it only takes 5 minutes to make you could always make the pesto trying both methods and see which one you prefer more. ???? I hope you and friend enjoy!
This looked so good, I went out and bought some fresh basil to make it!
I like using macadamia nuts as a substitution for pine nuts.
This recipe is simple and incredibly flavorful!
Thanks for posting these awesome recipes!
Thanks Shasta! Macadamia nuts sound like an awesome substitution! I'm going to have to try that out!
Love your post !!!
Can't wait to whip this up :))
Thanks! Let me know how it turns out!