Pesto Genovese

This pesto Genovese is a classic Italian tradition that’s simple to toss together and has countless uses that extend way beyond tossing it with pasta.

Three glass jars partially filled with pesto Genovese.

This pesto Genovese is a spoon-it-straight-from-the-jar-and-slather-it-on-everything sorta sauce that boasts all the taste of tradition and all the seduction of sophistication. You can toss it with pasta, natch, although let’s see how many other uses we can think of for it. Let us know your faves in a comment below. Originally published July 18, 2012.Renee Schettler Rossi

Should You Use A Mortar and Pestle Or A Food Processor?

Many of our recipe testers swooned over the rustic and imperfectly uneven texture lent to the pesto by making it in a mortar and pestle. Others found it quite cumbersome to make this pesto in anything but a food processor. You know your technology threshold and your desire for rusticity better than anyone. We’ll let you figure out whether you should use a mortar and pestle or a food processor for yourself.

Pesto Genovese

  • Quick Glance
  • (3)
  • 15 M
  • 15 M
  • Makes 8 (2-tbsp) servings | 1 cup
4.7/5 - 3 reviews
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Ingredients


Directions

Place the basil leaves in a mortar and crush them with a pestle until they collapse into a pulp or toss the leaves in a food processor and process until they’re finely chopped.

Add the garlic and pine nuts and crush or pulse repeatedly until combined. Transfer everything to a bowl if you’d like a little more elbow room as you stir.

Using a metal spoon, as slowly as you can, add the 1/3 cup olive oil into the mixture 1 spoonful at a time. Then add the Parmigiano-Reggiano. If a more drizzle-friendly consistency is desired, add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil; otherwise, leave it as-is. Taste and, if you feel it’s necessary, season with salt to taste, although given how salty Parmigiano is, you may not need any added salt. Use immediately or, to store the pesto for later, pour it into a clean jar, top with just enough olive oil to completely cover the surface, screw on the lid, and tuck it away in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

Whether it was the fresh-from-the-farmers’ market first basil of the season (with roots still on the stems!) that I mashed by hand, the richness of the lightly toasted pignoli, or the quality of my oil, I don't know, but this was the sweetest, brightest-tasting pesto I’ve ever made or eaten.

While I eventually used the food processor, I started by crushing the basil leaves in the mortar with a pestle and tried to do the same with the garlic clove and a few nuts. And, it seemed fussy when I read it, but adding the olive oil by spoonfuls allowed incorporation into the emulsion without the basil–oil separation that sometimes occurs when you make the whole thing in a processor. After stirring in the Parmesan, a few grains of salt was all it took to bring all the flavors together.

Here’s another deceptively simple recipe for a classic most of us have made many times.

This pesto genovese is delicious. My friend and I couldn’t stop eating our pasta with pesto for lunch today!

I made it with my blender, as I don’t have a mortar and pestle. I really packed the basil leaves into my 1/2-cup measure. Because of the saltiness of the cheese, I didn’t add too much salt to the pesto but cooked the pasta in very salty water. I’m looking forward to using the leftover pesto later this week. And actually, now I might go to the fridge and take another bite of leftover pasta...

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Comments

    1. low and slow, you can try blanching your basil in boiling water for about 3 seconds and then immediately transferring it to a bowl of ice water. Once it’s cooled, pat it dry and proceed with the recipe. This should help the basil retain its green color.

  1. This is the best tasting pesto I’ve ever had. I’ve made it a few times since I found the recipe & always have a jar in my freezer. Whether on pasta, bruschetta, over tomatoes or just out of the jar, everyone loves it. Of course it’s best all summer with fresh picked basil, but a great surprise taste of summer when pulled from the freezer in February.

  2. If I want to freeze cubes of pesto for later use, would I leave out the cheese and stir it in later, or mix it all up and freeze together? I haven’t had the best of luck with defrosted cheese in the past….

    1. Rachel, I like the way you’re thinking and I understand on the thawed frozen cheese situation. I believe you could safely freeze the pesto with the cheese since it’s already ground and any slight decline in texture won’t be distinguishable. Also, if the cheese releases a touch of liquid upon thawing, it will simply bring cheese flavor to the pesto. Kindly let us know what you decide to try and how it goes…!11

  3. I’m new to making pesto and this was so quick and easy and best of all SO TASTY! used it on homemade pasta (thanks for that recipe, too!). And with a cracker, cheese, meat, and fruit tray.

  4. I tried to make this recipe myself and the pesto marinated excellently with the pasta I made. Thanks a lot!!!

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