How do I Make Pesto?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Pesto is easy to make provided cooks possess a blender or food processor. There are many recipes for this delicious Italian sauce, which can top pasta or make for an ideal seasoning in soups and stews. The principal ingredients of pesto are basil, garlic and olive oil. Other recipes add common additions like pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and sometimes a small amount of lemon juice.

Olive oil, one of the ingredients in pesto.
Olive oil, one of the ingredients in pesto.

It is possible to make pesto without a food processor or blender. This can be done with extensive knife work for chopping up ingredients and some people employ a mortar and pestle. In fact, the origin of the word relates to the term pesta which means to crush. Early forms of pesto, which are thought to have come from Northern Italy, would probably have always used the mortar and pestle to make the sauce. This labor-intensive practice is no longer necessary with modern kitchen appliances like blenders and food processors.

Basil leaves are a primary ingredient in pesto.
Basil leaves are a primary ingredient in pesto.

It’s difficult to give exact instructions to make pesto without probably offending some people who rely on old family recipes. In general, though, people will need lots of fresh basil to make pesto. Basic proportions may include about two packed cups of chopped fresh basil to approximately a quarter cup (.06 liters) of olive oil. Garlic use varies and may be two or three cloves with such a recipe. Additions like pine nuts and parmesan cheese amounts may be about one quarter cup too, as measured in a measuring cup.

Pasta with pesto sauce.
Pasta with pesto sauce.

Weight measurements on basil are difficult to guess. Really, it depends on how much can be stuffed into a cup. It’s essentially going to take several handfuls of chopped basil when using about a quarter cup of olive oil. Other ingredient amounts can be greater or less depending on preference.

Parmesan cheese is sometimes used in pesto.
Parmesan cheese is sometimes used in pesto.

If using pine nuts, many recipes recommend that people first chop the nuts, garlic and olive oil together in the food processor. Once these are fully chopped, continue by adding handfuls of washed and fully dry basil to the mix. The consistency a cook should look for is a thick paste with finely chopped tiny pieces of basil in it. Using a pulse button on a food processor or blender may help achieve this.

Pine nuts and parmesan cheese can be measured in a measuring cup.
Pine nuts and parmesan cheese can be measured in a measuring cup.

Pesto can be used right away. It can be slightly heated but cooks should avoid overheating as this may cause the basil to become bitter in taste. The mix can also be frozen for several months, and this may be a great way have access to fresh tasting pesto when basil is not in season.

Pesto can be ideal to put in a soup.
Pesto can be ideal to put in a soup.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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