A good pesto recipe is a perfect combination of healthy and mouth-watering. Time to make your own.
Shop bought pesto’s ok. But if you haven’t made your own, your in for a treat. The taste is so much better. I don’t think you’ll ever buy ready-made pesto again.
Keep a jar of home-made in your fridge and you can add a blast of summer to almost any dish. A spoonful of pesto will transform your sauces, soups, dressings, marinades, pizzas and
The original Pesto came from the region around Genoa, Italy. Traditionally it was made with a pestle and mortar, hence the name pesto. And you can still do it that way if you want. But I’m too lazy – a food processor is
There is no definitive pesto recipe. Back in the day, every Italian matriarch made their own version. But the basics were the same – basil, hard cheese, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil.
My pesto is heavy on the garlic and basil. And I use Greek not Italian extra virgin olive oil because… that’s what I prefer.
Try the recipe first. Then feel free to customise it. More basil – less garlic – more cheese. Whatever suits your taste!
And when you’re happy with your “traditional” pesto it’s time to get inventive.
Customising – invent your own pesto
- Try different oils. Changing the olive oil can dramatically alter the flavour of your pesto. But you can go further. Swap out the olive oil for extra virgin rapeseed oil or a mix of groundnut and toasted sesame oil. Find the oil combinations you like.
- Pine nuts are painfully expensive. Try using blanched almonds, unsalted peanuts or any other nut you want.
- Toasting whatever nuts you choose adds real depth of flavour. But for some nuts, it can be too intense. So, no harm in only toasting half the nuts.
- You can replace the basil with any soft-leaved herb. Try coriander, parsley or even mint. And for a milder tasting bright green pesto use baby spinach leaves. Want something peppery? how about rocket leaves. And why not use a blend of herbs – whatever you fancy or have handy.
- I wouldn’t make pesto without garlic. But why not add a little kick with chilli or ginger? A great choice if you’re using coriander leaves.
- The classic choice for hard cheese is Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan). But lots of other hard cheeses work just as well. And many cost less. Changing the cheese can make interesting differences to the flavour.
- Change one ingredient at a time or change them all wholesale.
Over to you to experiment – and let me know the combinations that work for you.
- 75 g grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 75 g fresh basil
- 75 g pine nuts
- 4 cloves garlic
- 100 g extra virgin olive oil
- 6 peppermill turns freshly ground black peppercorns
- Put everything into your food processor except the salt and blend it into a smooth paste.
- Add salt to taste and blend in
- Your pesto will keep in a sealed jar in the fridge for two weeks or more.
- If you’ve made a big batch you can freeze it. Divide up the pesto in an icecube tray and stick it in the freezer. Use when you need it – one block at a time.
Hi, I’m Ralph – a nutritionist with over 25 years’ experience as a professional chef. I’m based in Edinburgh where I provide one-to-one nutrition coaching. If you’re not in Edinburgh I can help you online.