Traditional basil pesto is an Italian classic that is always better freshly made. It uses simple and few ingredients that come together very quickly. Despite the simplicity, there are best practices for making the best pesto.
Before we go any further — my pesto recipe depends on you having a mortar and pestle.
If you do not have one, you can use your food processor, but the results will just not be the same.
A proper pesto really needs a mortar and pestle. This is more important than whether you splurge on pine nuts, or go with something less expensive — like walnuts!
Walnuts are delicious in pesto!
A Mortar & Pestle Is Still A Useful Kitchen Appliance
There is something therapeutic about pounding away on some random ingredient in a mortar.
I have three in my kitchen:
The ubiquitous small marble variety that every person I have ever met also has, bought usually on clearance at a homewares store because it was too pretty to pass up. Often given as a housewarming gift. It usually sits somewhere out of the way, looking so pretty, but never being used.
That was me for a long time until I learned to toast and crush my own spices.
I have another one made out of out of olive wood with a matching wooden pestle. I'm still not too sure what to use this one for. I bought it, again, because it was on clearance and beautiful. I have used it as a food photo prop so far.
Maybe it will become designated for aiolis, mayos, and caesar dressings?
Finally, I have my ginormous granite mortar and pestle. It's an absolute unit and I use it constantly. It has become a true workhorse in my kitchen so much so that I hardly ever use my food processor or blender to make most sauces (that don't require cooking).
Buy a Mortar & Pestle:
The truth is that the texture and flavour, often the colour even, is made better by using a simple, old-fashioned mortar and pestle over high-speed metal blades.
And olive oil will further change in flavour and become bitter if used in a blender.
If you don't believe me, try it for yourself.
And if you take care of yours, it should last forever.
Here is a similar model on Amazon that I have no personal experience with but it looks amazing and comes well-reviewed. It's also granite and an impressive 8.5" with two pestle sizes.
Why Are Pine Nuts So Expensive?
Simply put, because they are a massive pain to harvest.
I rarely splurge on Italian pine nuts. Walnuts and even pecans or pistachios make a fine substitute.
If you want to learn how to go about harvesting pine nuts yourself, check out this handy guide from Hank Shaw:
Want To Grow Your Own Basil?
I have a handy guide for that.
You can grow your own basil indoors year-round, my guide explains it all in detail:
The Proper Order of Traditional Basil Pesto
There is a proper order to making traditional basil pesto.
It goes as follows:
- Pine Nuts
- Sea Salt
- Olive Oil
Properly finish up with one before moving on to the next step.
I'm not being pretentious. It will be easier for you to do it this way and in this order. The ingredients will combine effortlessly and you will have a perfect traditional basil pesto.
Eat Your Pesto
- With Pizza! Obviously. Like in this recipe. Add pesto ontop after it comes out of the oven.
- On Pasta! Like gnocchi or this simple fettucini with pancetta.
Let's Make Traditional Basil Pesto
If you have any questions or comments, let me know below.Print
Traditional Basil Pesto (Properly Made In the Correct Order)
Traditional basil pesto is an Italian classic that is always better freshly made. It uses simple and few ingredients that come together very quickly. Despite the simplicity, there are best practices for making the best sauce.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 2 cups 1x
- Category: Sauces
- Method: Blending
- Cuisine: Italian
- A mortar & pestle
- ¼ cup - ½ cup of pine nuts (or walnuts)
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 2 garlic cloves
- ¼ cup - ½ cup of high quality olive oil
- Sea salt
- Black pepper
- Add your pine nuts into the mortar, pound gently until no discernible individual pieces remain.
- Add the garlic and keep pounding until a paste is formed.
- Add the basil leaves, a pinch of sea salt, and keep pounding until the basil completely disintegrates into the rest of the ingredients.
- Once a thick paste has formed, add the Parmigiano-Reggiano, olive oil, a crack of fresh black pepper, and stir well to combine.
- Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.
Store refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Keywords: pesto, basil pesto, sauces, Italian