International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Pesto Genovese

A mortar and pestle with handmade pesto

(Italian basil-pinenut sauce)

Average: 4.7 (3 votes)

Pesto genovese is an ancient Italian sauce and is the classic accompaniment to pasta in the Ligurian town of Genoa. The original method called for careful grinding of the ingredients with a mortar and pestle. The food processor is a little quicker. The exact proportions of ingredients are much argued over. Follow your own taste.

Pesto is most often used to dress pasta such as ravioli, capellini or trenette. A dollop can also be stirred into vegetable or bean soups or spread on bruschetta or crostini. It can also accompany grilled chicken or fish. Or use it to flavor salsa balsamella for vegetable lasagna.

Makes about 1 cup, or enough for about a pound of dried pasta

  • Garlic, crushed -- 2 or 3 cloves
  • Basil, leaves only, no stems or flowers -- 2 or 3 bunches, or about 2 cups packed
  • Pine nuts -- 1/3 cup
  • Olive oil -- 1/2 cup
  • Grated Parmesan cheese -- 1/3 cup
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste


  1. Place the garlic in a food processor and pulse to break it into pieces. Add the basil in batches, pulsing each addition to form a roughly chopped mixture. Next add the pinenuts and pulse further to mix in well.
  2. Pour in the olive oil and pulse until the mixture comes together and is smooth but still has some texture.
  3. Stir in the Parmesan, salt and pepper and adjust ingredients to your taste.

Pesto Variations

  • Pistou (France): Follow the above recipe, eliminating the cheese. Use to garnish soupe au pistou.
  • Substitute walnuts for half or all of the pinenuts.
  • Arugula may be substituted for the basil if you like. In this case it is best to use all walnuts to stand up to arugula's pungent flavor.
  • Use half Parmesan and half aged pecorino cheese for a more complex flavor.
  • Add a tablespoon or so of water to lighten up the pesto a bit if you like.
  • Pesto can be stored refrigerated for 3 or 4 days or frozen for 3 or 4 months.


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