Pesto! Make it the classic way with basil and pinenuts, or any number of other combinations using spinach, kale, rocket/arugula and nuts such as cashews, almonds and walnuts using my pesto formula.
Homemade pesto will last for 3 days in the fridge, or months in the freezer. Make a pesto pasta, use for pasta salad, spread it on toast, use as a dip and dollop on everything!
There is no greater purpose for a big bunch of fresh basil than to make a homemade classic Italian pesto, and it’s negligent of me to have not shared my “formula” until now!
While basil is the classic version, there’s a wide variety of combinations available and I use the same recipe for all variations:
My pesto formula
2 cups basil – or other (tasty) blitzable leafy greens (lie kale, baby spinach)
2 tablespoons pinenuts – or other nuts (chopped). Cashews are the best (better value!) sub for a basil pesto.
1/2 cup / 50 grams parmesan. The better the quality, the better your pesto!
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil – a really good quality one makes all the difference here! I know that sounds like a lot of olive oil but you need it, to make a good pesto. If you don’t use enough, the pesto will be too pasty to use and it will be harder to blitz too.
1 small garlic clove – not too large, else it will have too much of a raw, harsh garlic flavour.
Salt and pepper
Combine and blitz – that’s it!
Here are some terrific combinations I’ve tried over the years. Use the same Pesto Formula above.
Basil and pinenuts – the classic
Basil with cashews – a popular dip combination sold in Australia
Rocket/arugula or baby spinach – with pinenuts, walnuts, almonds or cashews
Kale or silverbeet – with pinenuts, almonds or cashews (I find walnuts too bitter with kale)
Parsley – with pinenuts, walnuts, almonds or cashews
Add a bit of coriander/cilantro to any of the above (only using coriander is too strong, I find)
Pictured below is rocket/arugula with cashews (left) and walnuts (right).
Chunky or smooth?
Pesto can be a bit on the chunky side, or almost like a uniform green paste. It really comes down to personal preferences or what you’re using it for, but smoother pesto yields a better flavour and greener colour throughout whatever you toss it through.
Here’s a comparison of how pasta looks with chunky vs smooth. To be honest, I prefer the look of the chunky because I like the little green bits, but the flavour of the smoother one is better.
How I blitz pesto to make it really smooth
There’s 2 things that will help you get a really smooth pesto:
1. Ensuring there’s enough liquid to help it blitz. You’d think using the same recipe every time would mean constant results, but it doesn’t – because basil leaves can vary in how much water they hold.
So if you’re having trouble getting a smooth pesto, just add more liquid – oil, a touch of water or lemon juice (if you’re planning to use it for a pasta salad or you like a touch of tang in your hot pesto pasta)
2. The blitzing vehicle – Guess what, not all food processors are created equal! If yours isn’t powerful enough to make a really smooth pesto with 1 minute of blitzing, then give up, it’s not going to happen.
Instead, use a blender (you need to be diligent scraping it all out!), a Nutri-bullet (or spice grinder or similar) OR use a stick blender in a bowl.
This stick blender works exceptionally well! Watch the video and you’ll see.
So much more than just pasta!! I’ve separated them between when I use smoother pesto and chunkier pesto.
Stirred through risotto or a creamy orzo
Spreading on toast, crostinis
Dip (like the store bought ones)
For dolloping on things – cooked proteins, roasted vegetables, steak
Making a dressing (add vinegar/lemon and shake/stir)
See the separate post I shared today for how to make a JUICY pesto pasta. Don’t just keep adding more and more oil, it makes it way to rich! – Nagi x
Basil pesto recipe
Watch how to make it
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- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 cups / 60g / 2oz fresh basil leaves (tightly pack measuring cup, Note 1)
- 1/2 cup (50 g) parmesan, finely grated (tightly pack the cup)
- 1/2 tsp cooking/kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 garlic clove , small
- 7 tbsp extra virgin olive oil , best quality
- Toast pine nuts – Preheat small skillet over medium high heat (no oil). Add pine nuts and toast until light brown. Immediately remove and let cool slightly.
- Blitz pesto – Place all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor or blender. Blitz until finely chopped.
- Add oil while blitzing – With the motor running, slowly pour the oil in through the feeder tube. Blitz until smooth (or to desired consistency), adding a touch of extra oil (or water) if required to help it blitz.
- Handheld blender stick – Place all ingredients (including oil) in a bowl. Blitz with hand held blender until smooth.
Storage and Use:
- Store in a super airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freezer for 3 months. If it's not a super airtight container, smooth the surface and cover with a thin layer of olive oil – basil goes brown when in contact with air.
- Makes enough for: 300g/10oz dried pasta of choice (can stretch to 350g/12oz). See here for how to make a great simple pesto pasta!
- Rocket/arugula, baby spinach, spinach, silverbeet, kale, parsley
- Walnuts, cashews (best sub for pine nuts), almonds, hazelnuts. Haven’t tried with seeds like sunflower seeds but I see no reason why they wouldn’t work (but I wouldn’t use with kale)
- Makes just short of 1 cup of pesto. Use for 300g/10oz pasta of choice to coat generously (3 large servings, 4 smallish servings), or up to 350g/12oz (4 standard servings).
Life of Dozer
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