15 minutes
makes about 1½ cups
Traditional pesto is made by hand with a mortar and pestle, and is thick and silky smooth. My everyday pesto is a much easier rustic version that is unashamedly chunkier. It's still fabulous! Summer isn't summer for my family without basil pesto. It goes on pasta, chicken, cheese sandwiches, tomatoes, pizza ... you get the picture, right? We eat it all the time, in lots of ways. Good thing it's easy to grow, and it needs frequent cutting, too. Win-win!
  • 3 plump cloves garlic, peeled
  • generous pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, about 1 ounce
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil, yielding 3 cups packed leaves (about 3 ounces)
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon mild olive oil (4½ ounces)
  • 1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 ounce grated Pecorino Romano cheese

I like to make pesto the day I plan to eat it, though if you film the top with a little olive oil, it will keep, covered, in the refrigerator, for a week or two. Unfortunately, pesto doesn’t freeze well: the cheese will change in both taste and texture in the freezer. You could omit the cheese and freeze ‘almost pesto’, then stir in the cheese when it’s used. Or you might check out How to Freeze Herbs in Oil for my all-purpose method of preserving herbs in oil.

Okay, back to making pesto. Toast the pine nuts for fuller flavor – but if you’re rushed, you can skip that step. Put the pine nuts, garlic cloves, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Whiz to chop finely and combine. Add the basil leaves, and whiz again. With the motor running, slowly pour the olive oil through the feed tube, and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the cheeses, and puree about a minute more.

Serve, or store with a thin film of olive oil on top. Pesto does not freeze well. It’s best to omit the cheese for freezing, and add it in once thawed.

NOTE: if you don’t have pine nuts, you can use toasted raw almonds or walnuts, or even sunflower seeds. You can make a milder pesto with half spinach. This is flexible: adjust the ingredients and proportions to fit your taste and what’s on hand. 

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