The aroma of fresh basil is simply divine. Fresh, fragrant, and peppery it lends a whole wallop of flavor when used in a pesto. This basil pesto recipe gives the perfect ratio of ingredients to make a creamy, nutty sauce that is flavorful and useful in a huge range of other recipes.
The word pesto originally coming from the Italian verb meaning ‘to pound’ or ‘to crush’. This refers to the original method of making pesto, using a mortar and pestle to crush things together. Basically, you need to break open the basil to release the full flavor of the herb. Then get it to combine with the nuts, garlic, and oil to make a smooth sauce.
I love pairing this pesto with some fresh pasta and shrimp. Just cook the shrimp with a little olive oil and two spoonfuls of the pesto and use that to top the pasta. Then mix the entire thing with more pesto for full herb flavor.
Use this basil pesto recipe to make one of the most popular dishes on this site – the pesto pizza pasta salad. I think a lot of its popularity comes from the alliteration in the name. But I also like to think it is because of how delicious the recipe is. And it uses pesto as a base. So read on for the recipe.
Simple Steps for Basil Pesto
The easiest way to make this basil pesto recipe is to use a food processor or blender. You can go all traditional and use a mortar and pestle if you’d like. But that just seems like too much effort for little reward. A pestle-made pesto will be chunkier than the super-smooth results from a food processor. A food processor is better simply because it is usually a much shallower bowl and you can get the pesto out easier. This isn’t a runny sauce, so it won’t pour out of the blender well.
With the food processor, you mostly just have to toss things in and pulse it until smooth. Just break it up into a few separate pulses to make it the best it can be. You honestly could probably toss it all into the food processor at the same time and give it a whirl. But it is better to at least add the olive oil later as a sort of emulsion while the processor is running.
The first pulse includes basil, pine nuts, and garlic together in the blender or food processor. Then add the parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper and blitz it again. This gives the base of the sauce and includes everything but the olive oil. You’ll get the best consistency out of your pesto by adding the olive oil in a drizzle while running the machine. Just slowly pour it in through the opening in the top.
There you have it, pesto ready to go.
Variations on the Basil Pesto Recipe
The greens don’t necessarily have to be basil, or 100% basil. Add some spinach into the mix, use some arugula, or toss in parsley. Technically any greens would really work in a pesto. But you have to consider the flavor that it will add. Go crazy and try a beet green or mint pesto.
Same thing goes for pine nuts. Especially since pine nuts can be quite pricey (though buying a bulk bag from Amazon or Costco helps out). Walnuts or almonds are most commonly substituted for pine nuts. The nuts don’t seem to make quite as big a difference as the greens in the final flavor of the dish. But, roasting the nuts can give a whole different depth to the final pesto.
Add some lemon juice to the mix at the same time as the parmesan cheese for a little acidic flavor and as a kind of preservative for the bright green color. I’ve had a few batches of homemade pesto quickly turn brown. So another way to preserve that color is to blanch the basil.
Prep a large bowl with ice water. Start boiling a pot of water. Put all the basil or greens you are using into a metal sieve or colander. Dunk the colander into the hot water for about 15 seconds so that all the basil is covered. Immediately remove the basil from the hot water and dunk it into the ice water so that it stops cooking. Then drain and dry the basil and use as directed in the recipe.
What to Pair with Pesto
The first and most obvious pairing for pesto is pasta. It is a match made in heaven. The pesto will cling to the pasta and flavor every nook and cranny. You can even try your hand at making homemade pasta. The fresh, delicate texture of homemade pasta works well with this bright, peppery sauce. Tortellini, gnocchi, elbows, Combine the prepared pesto with a bit of milk, cream, and/or half and half in a saucepan over medium heat to make a pesto cream sauce to toss over pasta.
Pesto also goes great as a spread when making sandwiches. On grilled cheese, a pesto chicken sandwich, or a steak sandwich. Even just spreading it out on some toast. Try splitting a loaf of french bread, spreading some pesto on it, topping it with cheese, and popping it under the broiler for about 5 minutes.
And you can’t forget about pizza. Use pesto as a pizza sauce and top it with your favorite toppings. Pine nuts, chicken, mozzarella, parmesan. Mmmm.
This basil pesto recipe can be used in countless dishes. Store it in the fridge, freeze it, or (most likely) use it immediately after preparing it.
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How to Make Basil Pine Nut PestoCourse: SauceDifficulty: Easy
Fresh, fragrant, and peppery basil lends a wallop of flavor in this basil pesto recipe with the perfect ratio to make a creamy, nutty sauce
2 cups basil, packed
4 cloves garlic
3/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Put the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in the food processor or blender and pulse on high until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes
- Add the parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper and pulse until combined, 1 minute
- Start pulsing the blender and slowly pour in the olive oil until the pesto is smooth
- Scoop the pesto out of the food processor and use immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer
- Pesto can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or the freezer for up to a month
- If storing the pesto for later use, pour olive oil over the top of the pesto to help keep it fresh