Perfect Pesto: The Classic Italian Recipe

pesto

Pesto is versatile as a topping, condiment, and even an ingredient in other recipes. Traditionally made in a mortar and pestle, pesto is simply a paste of herbs, nuts, and cheese. The French have their own version of pesto and so do many other European countries. But Italian pesto, originally from Genoa, is the most famous. It's a recipe that everyone knows well and loves for its simplicity and amazing flavor. That's what Italian cuisine is all about.

Pesto can be made with a number of different herbs and nuts, but classically it is made with basil, pine nuts, and Parmesan. My favorite version switches out the pine nuts for walnuts. Sometimes I also make pesto with almonds, which creates a creamier texture. Hazelnuts or pecans would also work. Try a different herb like parsley, cilantro, mint, or a combination of all of them. Pesto is all up to your creativity. After all, no recipe is set in stone.

Even though I like to use a mortar and pestle, the easiest way to make pesto is in the food processor. You can make batch after batch quickly and freeze extra amounts in plastic tubs. Pesto works great as a sandwich spread, stirred into pasta, stirred into soup, or made into a salad dressing or marinade. The possibilities are endless with this recipe.


Basil Pesto

6 cups basil leaves
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup walnut halves
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup olive oil
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse basil, garlic, walnuts, and Parmesan until a thick crumbly mixture forms. With the machine running, drizzle in olive oil. The mixture should be slightly loose but still viscous. Season with salt and pepper and mix to combine. Store in an airtight plastic container with a thin film of oil on the surface of the pesto to prevent browning. Refrigerate if not using immediately. Use within 1 week. Yield: 1-1/2 cups.