Homemade Pesto

4.14.11 § 10 Comments

Pesto, Pea, and Parmesan Pasta

I grew up hating pesto. Like, with a passion. I remember one time I was out to what I thought was a super fancy dinner, and I ordered pesto on my pasta. I didn’t know what it was, but I thought it sounded cool. It. Was. Disgusting. I didn’t even eat my pasta – just pushed it to the side and picked at everyone else’s food.

Chopping - The Early Stages

But, then I got older, and I got into food, and I eventually saw a recipe for pesto. Basil, parmesan, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil. What’s there not to like?! So, tentatively, I started letting pesto back into my life, and it wasn’t so bad. I tried it out on pastas and sandwiches at relatively nice restaurants, and you know, things were going okay for me and pesto. We were getting along just fine, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why I had hated it so much as a kid.

Chopping - The Middle Stages

It wasn’t until a friend offered to make me a sandwich with pesto on it that it clicked: I hate pesto that comes from a jar! Hate, hate, hate. I ate my sandwich (I didn’t want to be rude), but now, I’m that annoying person that always asks “Is it fresh?” anytime someone offers me pesto, regardless of if it’s at a restaurant or someone’s home.

Chopping - The End Stages

But let’s be honest here: fresh, handmade pesto rocks. Really. It’s just so damn good. I didn’t even realize how good it was until I made it for myself one night and had one of those “Oh my god this is the best thing I’ve ever made!” moments. Even better? It’s pretty easy. Yes, it requires lots of chopping, but for me, lots of chopping is therapeutic. (Unless I’m dealing with a dull knife. Then, this amount of chopping makes me want to pull my hair out. (I was going to say it makes me want to stab someone, but there’s really no need for violence here. Right? Especially with a dull knife.)) Another great thing about making pesto, at least for me, was that it is something it had never occurred to me could be made at home! (I know, eye roll.) I kept saying to my dinner guests, “Look! I’m making pesto! Like, making it!” (I’d like to mention that I had had a glass of wine at this point. But still.)


Anyway, listen. If you can get your hands on a fresh bunch of basil, you’ve really got to try this. Especially if, like me, you’ve been on the fence about pesto at some point in your life. Once you’ve made this, and have fallen absoluuuutely in love with it, you can spread it on sandwiches, mix it into pasta, serve it on crostini, etc. And you can feel proud, because you just made pesto.

Basil Pesto
from 101 Cookbooks

Heidi over at 101 cookbooks says that the way she learned it, the best technique is “chop a bit, add some ingredients, chop some more.” She was taught by an Italian grandmother and her guess at the reasoning is that “some things get chopped into oblivion, while some not as much – it encourages spectrum of cut sizes throughout the pesto contributing to the overall texture.” And, it takes awhile. It probably took me about 25 good minutes, with breaks to sip my wine.

Also, note that this recipe has no salt in it, so you will need to adjust the seasoning for whatever you’re using with the pesto. If it’s pasta, make sure to salt the cooking water for the pasta, and then you’ll probably need to salt to taste.

1 large bunch of basil, leaves only, washed and dried
5 medium cloves of garlic
one small handful of raw pine nuts
roughly 3/4 cup Parmesan, loosely packed and FRESHLY GRATED
A few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

Start chopping the garlic along with about 1/3 of the basil leaves. Once this is loosely chopped add more basil, chop some more, add the rest of the basil, chop some more. The trick is to chop for a bit, then scrape it all together, then add a bit more, chop some more, and scrape it all together again. (Just don’t use the blade of your knife! It dulls it!) At this point the basil and garlic should be a very fine mince. Add about half the pine nuts, chop, then add the rest of the pine nuts and chop some more. Add half of the Parmesan, chop. Add the rest of the Parmesan, and chop. When the ingredients are fine enough, you will be able to mold them into a little loaf-type thing, and the ingredients should hold together. Cover the pesto with a bit of olive oil, it doesn’t take much, just a few tablespoons.

It’s ready to eat! Either set it aside or stick it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it, giving it a quick stir before you add it to whatever you’re making (to incorporate the ingredients).You can set this aside or place it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.


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§ 10 Responses to Homemade Pesto

  • Brianne says:

    This is my eye roll moment: “Oh my gosh, you can make pesto without a food processor?!?” I also had a distaste for pesto until I had a fresh batch in college. I’m growing basil this summer, and I’m super pumped about it! So trying this.

  • DK says:

    Yay pesto! Another reason why meat is unnecessary. (for me – guess I shouldn’t speak for others 🙂 Thanks and look forward to trying.

  • Cassie says:

    I have made quite a few pestos in my food processor but have never done so by hand. I’m the kind of weirdo who enjoys 25 minutes of chopping, so I’ll have to try it out sometime soon.

  • Jasmine says:

    Holy moly Tyla, I’m loving both the frequency and quality of blog posts as of late! I can’t wait to try this pesto!
    Also, remember a while ago when you did Link Love and asked everyone what they thought of link love? Well, I loved Link Love, but I never commented because I just figured everyone else would tell you how awesome it was and I wouldn’t have to (sometimes I’m lazy). Anyway, while I’m here I just thought I’d say: hurray for link love and hurray for fresh pesto!
    I hope that life is awesome and that you are having warm, spring-y weather!

    • Tyla says:

      Jasmine! Your comment totally made my morning. Also, thanks for the link love feedback! I’ve been so busy lately I havne’t even been reading things on the internet, but I’m going to try to bring it back when I get a minute to breathe 🙂

      • Jasmine says:

        Well I’m looking forward to it!
        I made pesto today, along with the kale chips from a while back. I’ve never had a problem with not-fresh pesto, but now that I’ve had it this way I might not be able to go back! As for the kale chips, they are totally weird and totally awesome. I accidentally spilled quite a lot of salt on them, but other than that, they’re really good. I plan to try the bagels from link love later in the week.
        Take care!

  • sofia says:

    yum yum yum, i love pesto. have you had cilantro pesto? the stuff is just as dangerous. oy.

  • Gabby says:

    YUM! Homemade pesto is my fave. I just made an arugula pesto the other day because I had a ton that was going to go bad! It was pretty tasty, but I love basil too much to make it the arugula one a regular occurrence in my apartment.

  • Love pesto but have never attempted to make it myself. You make it seem so simple.

  • jdpence says:

    can only afford ramen:(
    It’s a sad day…

    Thanks for your posts!

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