Homemade Pesto

homemade pesto

I think homemade pesto with pine nuts is one of the most famous Italian recipes after tomato sauce. Although the ingredients are simple, making it well is not as easy as it seems. My recipe is super easy, and your pesto will be not only delicious, but it will also go with everything. Basil is an annual herb used in countless recipes. It has spread all around the world from Asia to Central Africa, from Italy to the US. With upwards of 150 varieties of basil, it is composed of 40 different chemical elements, or essential oils, that give off its unique scent and flavor.

The botanical species, the climate, the light exposure, the soil, and the growing methods all contribute to making basil smell and taste different from one plant to another. Sometimes, it may even resemble mint, which does not make a good pesto. 

WHICH BASIL FITS PESTO BEST?

If you prepare pesto quite often, you should buy a small plant and grow it in a vase in your kitchen. It will spread a nice scent around, and you can then cook with it throughout the year. You can pick basil leaves as needed at any time– in fact, harvesting encourages the plant to produce more leaves. If you buy it at the supermarket, make sure the leaves are smooth and bright green. When at home, wrap the stems in a wet paper towel to keep them hydrated until you use them. Remove the leaves from the stems. 

italian pesto sauce

HOW CAN YOU MAKE A FRESH PESTO?

With a few tricks, making pesto is quite easy. Everyone in Liguria has their own recipe. It is a fresh sauce which doesn’t need cooking—its name comes from the verb pestare, to crush because the basil is crushed in a mortar and pestle. Follow this method for amazing results.

Tips and tricks

You may have used darkened basil leaves, or you may have used the food processor instead of the mortar and pestle. The blades of the food processor may have overheated the essential oils, hence the unpleasant taste. Both heat and oxygen spoil and blacken the basil leaves. So, be careful; if you want to make pesto in a food processor, the ingredients have to be added as follows:

  • Wash and dry the basil leaves perfectly. Remove any darkened leaves;
  • Put the lightly-toasted pine nuts into the food processor;
  • Add the finely chopped garlic; 
  • Add a pinch of salt and the basil and pulse a few times; 
  • Pour cold oil in to help prevent the basil from overheating; 
  • Pulse the food processor intermittently until a smooth, and even consistency is formed;
  • Now add the grated Parmigiano and Pecorino cheese (or only one type of cheese if you do not have both);
  • Pulse the ingredients lightly until mixed.
  • You may use cashews, almonds, or walnuts. The taste is very different, of course, but they are also delicious. 

HOW CAN I STORE it?

If you don’t use the pesto as soon it is ready, prepare it without the cheese and freeze it in food containers. You then add the cheese when you defrost the pesto. You can freeze the pesto in an ice cube container. When frozen, pop the frozen pesto cubes into a ziplock bag. Then take out only what you need. You can store it in the freezer for 6 months or in the fridge for a few days in an airtight container making sure the oil evenly covers the sauce.  

is pesto just for pasta?

In Italy, pesto is used to season both fresh and dry pasta or gnocchi. Officially, it is not paired with anything else. Unofficially, it can be spread on toasted bread topped with oil and chopped tomato to make bruschetta, an appetizer with toasted bread and fresh tomatoes, or it may also season tomato and mozzarella sandwiches. It also goes well with steamed asparagus or hardboiled or fried eggs.  

homemade pesto
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homemade pesto

Nothing is more Italian than Pesto Sauce
Prep Time30 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Course: Sauce
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cup fresh basil
  • 2 garlic gloves
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese
  • 5 tbsp grated Pecorino cheese
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 pinch sea salt

Instructions

  • Remove the basil leaves from the stems; gently wash the leaves under cold running water; do not fold them as they turn black easily.
  • Spread the leaves onto a tea towel and dry them. They must be perfectly dry to make pesto.
  • In a mortar, crush the garlic with some salt.
  • Add the basil along with all the ingredients except the oil.
  • Lightly toast the pine nuts in a skillet on the stove top for a few minutes until they turn golden brown (stir constantly); this will make a nuttier taste.
  • Crush a few leaves of basil, adding only a few leaves at a time with long circular movements of the pestle until there’s a smooth and even paste.
  • After crushing the basil, add the crushed garlic and pound the mixture until evenly blended. Add the cheese.
  • and then the oil to bind the sauce and create a creamy paste.
  • Season with salt.

Nutrition

Calories: 157kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Sodium: 11mg | Potassium: 83mg | Fiber: 0.5g | Sugar: 0.2g | Vitamin A: 951IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 1mg
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