Classic Pesto

What a beautiful weekend; no rain, it wasn’t too disgustingly hot, I picked the first of my basil and was able to snap a few quick photos of some pretty milkweed flowers just before sunset.

With the first big batch of basil I picked, I made homemade pesto. I actually posted this recipe a while ago at the bottom of my sun-dried tomato basil pesto recipe, but thought that now would be a good time to bring this recipe front and center, since I use it so frequently. I really like this recipe because the garlic and pine nuts are both toasted before use. I think toasting the garlic works really well because it eliminates that harsh, raw garlic kick, and keeps it in balance with all of the other flavors. 

This recipe will make one cup of pesto, but is really easy to double or triple, depending on the capacity of your food processor. As you can see below, this is about four batches worth for freezing!

At the end of the summer, I harvest all of my remaining basil, before the frost and make multiple batches of pesto to freeze. I like to freeze the pesto in half cup portions, which will cover a half pound of pasta. It’s always a convenient, quick meal when we just don’t feel like cooking.


Classic Basil Pesto

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated 
Makes enough for 1 pound of pasta – about 1 cup of pesto.
¼ cup pine nuts 
3 medium cloves garlic , unpeeled 
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves (optional)     
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt          
¼ cup finely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan       
Ground black pepper
1 pound of shaped pasta

Lightly toast the garlic in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until just golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes ; set aside to let cool. It won’t look like you’ve done much to the garlic, but trust me, it really helps to tame any harsh raw garlic flavor. You’ll see the difference toasting makes when you peel the skin away from the garlic clove; it looks translucent. Peel slightly cooled garlic and then chop.

Add pine nuts to the skillet and toast until lightly brown and fragrant.

Place the basil and parsley (if using) in a salad spinner basket, rinse and drain. Smash basil in hands to bruise the leaves. Spin dry. Alternately, if you don’t have a salad spinner, you could roll up the leaves in a dish towel and shake dry after washing.

Place ingredients in food processor and process until smooth, stopping as necessary to scrape down the sides of the bowl, about  1 minute. Transfer to bowl, and stir in the Pecorino and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap or a thin layer of olive oil, then refrigerate.  Pesto can be refrigerated up to three days until ready to toss with pasta.

When pasta is finished cooking, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water, and drain. Mix pasta with pesto and 1/4 cup of reserved water. Toss. Add more water to reach desired consistency. Serve with cheese to pass if desired.


Creamy Pesto Variation

To add an extra creaminess to your pesto, you can add in 1/4 cup of ricotta cheese at the same time as the other cheese.


Freezing Pesto for Later Use

Prepare pesto, up through adding in the cheese. Freeze portioned out into half cup or one cup servings in ziplock, or FoodSaver style bags, with as much air removed as possible. If you are using the vacuum sealer bags, I would not use the vacuum, just the heat seal bar. Freeze.

To use, thaw in a bath of cool water for 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to small bowl, and stir in cheese; continue with the above recipe for mixing with pasta.


  1. Mom says

    This recipe turned your Dad into a pesto believer; the recipes I tried in the past were bitter and over powering, this was not. I used four kinds of basil from the garden that also gave it a fresh and interesting taste. Now I have to make more to freeze for the winter.

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