Homemade basil pesto – a simple summer dish

7 Jul

It’s summer. It’s hot. The last thing I want to do is cook over a hot stove and eat a hot meal, when it is hot outside. Making my own pesto was easy, fast, and could be eaten warm or cold.

Maybe a little too much pesto on the pasta, but it's better to have too much than too little!

Maybe a little too much pesto on the pasta, but it’s better to have too much than too little!

If you’ve never made your own or don’t know how then this post is perfect for you. What I absolutely love about basil pesto is you can literally grow your own basil and so this dish could be very economical. The amount of basil needed is probably more than what could be grown in a kitchen, however a small parcel of land is all that’s needed to grow a nice bundle of basil.

I think this is a about 2 cups worth. I cut off the stems before putting them in the food processor.

I think this is a about 2 cups worth. I cut off the stems before putting them in the food processor.

As a beginner cook I’m constantly amazed at how easy things really are. My new motto is “just give a try!”, because what is the worst that could happen? Now that I know how easy pesto is it will be something I make over and over again.

Bruised basil

Bruised basil

Bruised basil? Yes. Even though the food processor is going to cut it up? Yes. By bruising the basil it releases the oils, which enhances flavor. Similarly, by toasting the pine nuts it enhances the flavor. So in this recipe I toasted garlic and the pine nuts (not together) and bruised the basil for ultimate flavor.

This was batch #2...the first batch burned the second I turned around

This was batch #2…the first batch burned the second I turned around

In short, basil pesto is a lot of fun, it’s easy, and perfect for the hot summer months. If you’ve never tried it then I encourage you to just try it once.

Basil Pesto – Cook’s Illustrated

Makes 3/4 cup, enough for 1 pound of pasta

Pounding the basil releases its flavorful oils into the pesto more readily. Basil usually darkens in homemade pesto, but you can boost the green color a little by adding the optional parsley. For sharper flavor, substitute one tablespoon finely grated pecorino Romano cheese for one tablespoon of the Parmesan. The pesto can be kept in an airtight container, covered with a thin layer of oil (1 to 2 tablespoons), and refrigerated for up to four days or frozen for up to one month.


  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (or substitute almonds or walnuts)
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves (optional)
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano
  • Ground black pepper


  1. 1. Toast the nuts in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until just golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes; set aside. Add the garlic to the empty skillet and toast over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant and the color of the cloves deepens slightly, about 7 minutes. Let the garlic cool slightly, then peel, and chop.
  2. 2. Place the basil and parsley (if using) in a heavy-duty 1-gallon zipper-lock plastic bag. Pound the bag with the flat side of a meat pounder or rolling pin until all the leaves are bruised.
  3. 3. Process the nuts, garlic, herbs, oil, and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt in a food processor until smooth, stopping as necessary to scrape down the sides of the bowl, about 1 minute. Stir in the Parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. Published July 1, 1996.

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One Response to “Homemade basil pesto – a simple summer dish”

  1. LFFL September 7, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

    I like using pesto. Sounds good.

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