26 July 2011

pesto, my way

Pretty much sums up my feelings! There are fancy artichoke or kale pestos out there, which are awesome, but I kinda go nuts for straight up basil-y pesto all Summer long. If I have a big jar of this stuff in the fridge, then you know all is well in my world.

As I mentioned earlier, I used to have trouble making a bright green, fresh-tasting pesto. I'm sure you're with me: sludge-y, dark, bitter pesto just isn't worthy of the name. Allow me to share my personal approach for a version that deserves to be slathered on everything.

Before I do so, let me say, this isn't a fancy, magical, or obscure method. Just a super simple, reliable pesto method that I like. For all I know, you might do it the same way!

It all started a couple of years ago with Heidi's "How to Make Pesto Like an Italian Grandmother" post: hand-chopped pesto with fresh-tasting, identifiable bits smothered by a truck-load of olive oil. I tried this technique, and let me tell you: it tasted AMAZING. Bright, basil-y, garlicky, incredible.

But... my wrist was hurting for a couple of days after. Granted, my "knife skills" are better now, but still. If I'm making a big batch of pesto each week, not sure this is going to happen.

So, my revised technique utilizes a food processor instead of a knife, and borrows the key ideas of the Italian Gram: don't over-chop, don't be afraid of olive oil. It's easy.

Here we go:

1. I make each batch with two large bunches of fresh basil. Don't refrigerate it; make it the day you buy/pick the basil. Pick all the leaves off and place in the food-processor* workbowl. Compost all the stems. You don't want 'em in this pesto.

* I don't use a blender for this method, b/c I think it over-mixes. A FP just chops if you use the pulse button.


2. Peel 2-3 large garlic cloves and throw them in, along with a large handful (or more) of grated parmesan. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and drizzle over a generous (~1/2 c?) amount of extra virgin olive oil*.

I don't use pine nuts! I know, crazy, but I have grown to really like the fresh, biting taste of basil, cheese and garlic. Add 'em if you want.

* This method uses a staggering amount of olive oil, but just remember you're not going to eat it all at once! Plus, it's good for you :)


3. Put the lid on the workbowl and pulse for a very short time: 2-3 seconds. The mixture should just be roughly broken down (see below). This gets everything the same size. Scrape the sides down, then add the final olive oil: probably another 1/4-1/2 c.


4. Pulse again for 2 seconds, and if you have enough olive oil, it should look like this (below). Don't process any longer, or it'll go dark and nasty. Taste for salt and pepper... and maybe stir in a tiny squirt of lemon juice? Sometimes it's just needed.


5. The trick to storing (and preventing the dread blackened pesto) is, as you probably know, to keep the air out. Scrape the pesto into a clean jar and gently float a 1/2" layer of olive oil on top. Put the cap on and refrigerate. It's probably best to use it all up within a week or two.

When you do want to use some, take the pesto out to come to room temp. Pour the oil layer off into a small bowl, then scoop out the desired quantity. To store again, smooth out the top of the pesto and replace the oil layer on top.


Of course, if you want to eat the pesto right away, what's better than pizza? :) Yep, it's the same recipe as last week. It's gotten the Toddler Thumbs Up.

pesto pizza

pesto pizza w/summer stuff

yum, pesto pizza

Soooo, I'm curious, how do you make pesto? Do you? There are a million different ways and ingredient combos. I'd love to hear about it!


  1. For us it wouldn't be pesto without the pine nuts, but at $35/lb (non-organic from China) at Rainbow last week, we might need to rethink the recipe.....
    Great, mouth-watering images, as usual.

  2. hi rosekraft: yeah, they're not out of the question for me I suppose... I also eye them at Rainbow each time I go, and it just doesn't seem to happen. I meant to mention that I tried subbing pistachios and it was thumbs down. boo.

  3. omg. i'm seriously GLEEKING.
    (is that a universally known term?!)

    i've never even attempted pesto but i'm down with your sans-pine nut ways.

    can't wait to try this!!

  4. S: ha! yes, it certainly is! nice one :)


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