Homemade pesto is a whole different experience from the varieties you pick up from supermarket shelves, and it is really easy to make. Pesto is a sauce that originates from Genoa in Northern Italy and the word “pesto” derives from the Italian word “pestello” meaning “pestle” or “to pound”.
Traditional Genovese pesto is made using fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese. There are numerous versions of the Genovese pesto, such as coriander, rocket and sun-dried tomato to name a few.
The easiest way to make pesto is in a food processor or blender, although the purists would insist that a mortar and pestle is the only way to go. Personally I use a food processor and the results are always well received. It is delicious tossed through hot pasta, dolloped on top of Minestrone, mixed into scrambled eggs, and served as an accompaniment to meat, particularly lamb, fish and vegetables.
Here’s the recipe for traditional Genovese Pesto “Pesto alla Genovese” – my favourite of all the pestos:
1 large bunch of basil, leaves picked
1/3 cup pine nuts
2-3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
75g freshly grated parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
Pinch of sea salt
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1. Place the basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan cheese and salt in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. You may need to scrape down the sides with a spatula a couple of times.
2. With the motor running, pour the oil in a slow stream through the feed tube and process until a smooth sauce has formed.
3. To refrigerate, store in an air-tight container or jar, with a layer of olive oil covering the top of the pesto. It will keep for a week in the refrigerator. Pesto also freezes well.