Pesto is a type of sauce that originated in Italy, and is customarily made with fresh basil. Pesto alla Genovese, as it is called in Italy, is the name used to refer to this traditional version of the sauce that originated in Genoa. This sauce was traditionally made with a mortar and pestle, with the ingredients crushed in a circular motion. Pesto can be used with olive oil as a dipping sauce for bread (like at Macaroni Grille), a sauce for pasta, a spread for sandwiches, an alternative pizza sauce, on bruschetta, and on and on the list could go.
There are only five ingredients: basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and olive oil. It’s important to use good quality basil, as that is the base and prominent flavor of the sauce. Avoid using brown or slimy leaves and choose the crispest and heartiest leaves. I’m very lucky to have an aunt who grows amazing basil! When Harper and I went to spend the day with her so I could learn how to can, she gave me a whole milk jug full of basil to take home. Oh happy day!
I have been using this recipe for years. I found it in a cookbook titled “Italy” that I picked up off a clearance rack at Barnes and Noble like 10 years ago. (In case you don’t already know this about me, I collect cookbooks.) I wanted it for it’s beautiful spine and cover (to look pretty on a shelf) but this book was a wealth of knowledge about authentic Italian food and cooking. It’s pages are covered in tomato juice and olive oil from all its use.
With a food processor, this recipe comes together in under 5 minutes. If you do it by hand, using the classic mortar and pestle, it takes just a little longer, depending on your brute strength. As far as storage goes, pesto needs to be stored with a layer of olive oil on top to keep it from oxidizing and turning brown. You can store it in an air tight container in the fridge for a week, or up to 6 months in the freezer. When I make pesto, I usually double the recipe. It stores well and I use it for a lot of different recipes.
Prep Time: 5 minutes (10 if you’re not using a food processor)
Cook Time: N/A
Yields: 3/4 cup
2 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup pine nuts
4 Tbsp grated Parmesan
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil (plus more for storing)
Step 1: Add the basil, pine nuts, garlic, and cheese to the bowl of a food processor.
Step 2: Pulse until a paste forms, scraping down the sides as necessary.
Step 3: Drizzle in the olive oil while the food processor is running to incorporate.
Step 4: Store pesto in an airtight container with a layer of olive oil on the top for 1 week in the frig or 6 months in the freezer.