There is no greater purpose for a big bunch of fresh basil than to make a homemade classic Italian pesto. While basil is the classic version, there is a wide variety of combinations available and I use the same recipe for all variations.
My pesto formula
- 2 cups basil –or other (tasty) easily blended leafy greens
- 1/4 cup pinenuts– or other nuts (chopped). Cashews are the best (better value!) substitute for a basil pesto.
- 1/2 cup parmesan, store bought shredded OR 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil– a really good quality one makes all the difference here! I always buy my oil from the local Farmers Market at Chipping Norton. They have the best quality oil.
- 2 garlic cloves
- Salt and pepper
How I blend pesto to make it really smooth
There’s 2 things that will help you get a really smooth pesto:
- Ensuring there’s enough liquid to help it blend. You’d think using the same recipe every time would mean constant results, but it doesn’t – because basil leaves can vary in how much water they hold. (Also, sneaking in extra parmesan doesn’t help!).
So if you’re having trouble getting a smooth pesto, just add more liquid – oil, a touch of water or lemon juice.
- The food processor vehicle– Guess what, not all food processors are created equal! If yours isn’t powerful enough to make a really smooth pesto with 1 minute of blending, then give up, it’s not going to happen.
Instead, use a blender (you need to be diligent scraping it all out!), a Nutribullet (or spice grinder or similar) OR use a stick blender in a bowl.
- Preheat garlic over medium high heat (no oil). Add pine nuts and toast until light brown. Immediately remove and let cool slightly.
- Place all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor or blender.
- Blend until finely chopped
- With the motor running, slowly pour the oil in. Blend until smooth (or to desired consistency), adding a touch of extra oil (or water) if required to help it blend.
- Handheld blender: Place all ingredients (including oil) in a bowl. Blend with hand held blender until smooth.
STORAGE AND USE:
- Store in a super airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freezer for 3 months. If it’s not a super airtight container, smooth the surface and cover with a thin layer of olive oil – basil goes brown when in contact with air.
- Makes enough for: 300g dried pasta of choice (can stretch to 350g)
- Basil– important to use FRESH basil leaves here, not basil that’s been in your fridge for a week (goes brown when blended!)
- Variations– Use the same ratios above and switch the basil/pinenuts for any of the following:
- Rocket/arugula, baby spinach, spinach, silverbeet, kale, parsley
- Walnuts, cashews (best sub for pine nuts), almonds, hazelnuts.
- Makes just short of 1 cup of pesto. Use for 300g pasta of choice to coat generously (3 large servings, 4 smallish servings), or up to 350g (4 standard servings).
1 quantity homemade pesto
300 – 350 g pasta of choice (ziti, penne and spaghetti are my favourites)
2 tsp salt
3/4 cup pasta cooking water
Parmesan, for serving
I always like to add more vegetables to my pasta sauces. My favourite ones are: mushrooms, shredded brussels sprouts, spinach, brocolli and leek. If you haven’t already, definitely try those varieties. You are going to love it!
Bring a large pot of water to the boil with the salt and oil.
Add pasta and cook for the length of time per the packet.
Just before draining, scoop out 1 cup of the pasta cooking water (optional, if you want to make a more juicy sauce).
Drain pasta in a colander, leave it for a minute.
Transfer pasta to a bowl (do not use pasta cooking pot, too hot).
In a large pot add a bit of olive oil and stir fry mushrooms, shredded Brussel sprouts, leek, and broccoli. When ready add spinach.
Add pesto and 1/4 cup of pasta water. Toss to coat pasta in pesto, adding more water if required to make pasta silky and saucy, rather than dry and sticky.
Taste, add more salt and pepper if desired.
Serve immediately, garnished with fresh parmesan
Pesto – This recipe is intended for use with this homemade pesto which I also shared today. However, the same technique applies to store bought. If using store bought, use 1/2 cup+. Usually require less than when using homemade because they have a more concentrated flavour from basil extract.
Use 300g for a really great coating of pesto sauce – 3 large servings, 4 smallish servings.
Use up to 350g for “normal” amount of pesto sauce to pasta – 4 standard servings.
Don’t use more pasta for one batch of homemade pesto, the pasta will lack pesto flavour.
- Never toss pesto pasta on a hot stove, heat will make basil black!
- Some people like a squeeze of lemon juice to finish
- Leftovers – store in fridge in super airtight container
- Do not reheat leftovers – will also make basil black. Just bring to room temp then consume – pesto pasta at room temp is so good!