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How to Make Pesto
Pesto, made with basil plucked right from the garden, is one of summer's greatest pleasures. Best of all, it's incredibly easy to make, and you can use it in many more ways than simply as a pasta sauce. In my household, we use pesto as a spread on sandwiches, dolloped on toasted French bread for an appetizer, or atop grilled or sautéed chicken or fish.
Making pesto is quite easy if you have a food processor. Once you learn how to make this classic basil pesto, try substituting different types of nuts, or even other herbs, such as parsley or cilantro. You'll quickly discover for yourself how easy it is to add a shot of bold flavor to many dishes.
To make my classic basil pesto, you'll need:
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 1 1/4 cups fresh basil leaves (packed)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter, softened (optional)
- 1 cup (2 ounces) parmesan cheese, grated
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Begin by putting the pine nuts and garlic into the work bowl of a food processor, and pulse a few times until the nuts are ground into small pieces.Continue to 2 of 5 below.
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Add the Basil
Add the basil leaves into the food processor and pulse or process until the leaves are completely chopped and are combined with the pine nuts.Continue to 3 of 5 below.
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Add the OilWith the food processor running, gradually add the oil to the mixture. Some food processors have a feed tube with a small hole in it that will trickle liquids gradually into the work bowl. Otherwise, simply pour the oil gradually into the mixture.Continue to 4 of 5 below.
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Add the Cheese
Stop the food processor and scrape down the sides, pulsing a couple of times if necessary to completely combine the basil, oil and pine nut mixture. Then, add the grated cheese and the butter, if using. Process the mixture until the cheese and butter are completely combined and the mixture has formed a loose paste. Taste the pesto and season it to taste with salt and pepper; you'll probably need about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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Sauce Pasta With Pesto
Since pesto is so thick and pasty, here's an easy way to combine it with pasta so it coats completely. In the photo, I'm using homemade fettuccini made with a pasta maker.
After cooking pasta in boiling water, drain the pasta (don't rinse) or remove it with a pair of tongs. While it's still hot, place it in a large bowl. Add a few dollops of pesto and use a spoon or a pair of tongs to toss the pasta and the pesto together so the pesto melts and completely coats the pasta.
For a pasta dish that's traditional to Liguria, the birthplace of pesto, you can cook some green beans and peeled, cubed white potato in the pasta water and toss it with the pasta.
For the recipe for Basil Pesto and a photo of the finished dish, click here.