Pesto is one of those things that is so much better when you make it yourself rather than buy it in a store! I’m talking about the most common and famous type of pesto here: Pesto alla Genovese. This sauce is made from basil, pine nuts, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, parmigiano reggiano, aged pecorino, and some salt. If you buy a jar of pesto in a store, chances are that it will contain parsley, sunflower oil, cashew nuts, or even potato. Not to mention preservatives. But the worst problem is that store-bought pesto in most cases has a strong “off” flavor that has nothing to do with real pesto. And the good news is that pesto is very easy to make if you own a blender, it will take only a few minutes!
Pesto will taste best if you make it the day before, to allow the flavors to blend. That will especially take the ‘edge’ off the garlic flavor. I usually make pesto without exactly weighing the ingredients. For this occasion I have kept track of what I was doing for giving more exact proportions in this post, but there is no strict rule for making pesto. Just do what you like best!
A problem in the Netherlands with making your own pesto is that in most Dutch supermarkets basil is sold in small bags at a ridiculous price of EUR 1.00 to EUR 1.40 for 15 grams, meaning that you’d spend 4-6 euros for the basil alone. That takes away the fun! Basil plants in a pot are slightly cheaper, but especially in winter that basil doesn’t have much taste. Luckily at Marqt (expensive for most stuff) they sell 80 grams of basil for 1.80 euros.
If you like pesto and you’ve never made your own before: give it a try and you’ll be surprised how easy it is and how delicious it will be!
This yields around 180 grams (6 oz) of pesto sauce, enough for spaghetti or other pasta al pesto for two, but of course you can easily scale this recipe to make smaller or larger quantities.
60 grams (2 oz) fresh basil [33%]
45 grams (1.5 oz) extra virgin olive oil [25%]
45 grams (1.5 oz) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano and pecorino cheese [25%]
30 grams (1 oz) pine nuts [17%]
1 clove garlic (or more if you really like garlic)
Cut the biggest stems off the basil. It is a lot of work to take off all the leaves individually, and you won’t taste the difference anyway. Wash the basil if needed and spin dry.
Put the basil, pine nuts, chopped garlic and extra virgin olive oil in the blender.
Blend on a low speed to obtain pesto that tastes of basil and is somewhat coarse. If you like it more smooth, blend on high speed.
The result should look like this. Season lightly with salt.
Grate the cheeses, using equal amounts of parmigiano and pecorino. The two cheeses complement each other well: pecorino is more piquant whereas parmigiano gives more depth to the flavor.
Blend in the cheeses. Now taste and see if you’d like to add some more of any of the ingredients to your liking. For example if you’d like your pesto to be thinner, add some extra virgin olive oil.
Store the pesto in the fridge. Pesto will keep longer (up to a week if your fridge is cold enough) if you cover it with a thin layer of olive oil. Pesto can also be frozen.