How to Make Pesto: 2 Ways
Pesto, which in Genoese means “to crush,” is a classic Italian technique to make sauces with fresh ingredients. While originally it’s supposed to be prepared with a special mortar, today it’s possible to use a food processor or a hand blender to make the sauce in under 3 minutes.
5-Minute Crafts wants to show you 2 different pesto’s that you can make at home.
A. Pesto alla genovese
What you’ll need:
- 1 or 2 medium cloves of garlic, peeled
- Coarse sea salt, as needed
- 3 oz basil leaves (from about a 4-oz bunch), washed with water still clinging to the leaves
- 2 tbsp (30g) pine nuts
- 3/4 oz (about 2 tbsp) grated Parmigiano Reggiano (see note 1)
- 3/4 oz (about 2 tbsp) Pecorino Fiore Sardo (see note 1)
- 3/4 cup (175ml) mildly flavored extra-virgin olive oil
- Food processor (see note 2)
- Originally, pesto Genovese called for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese only. However, using Pecorino Fiore Sardo is also advised by some because of its sweeter, fruitier, less harsh flavor. If you can’t find it anywhere, you can also just use Pecorino Romano instead, but increase the Parmigiano Reggiano to 1 ounce, and cut the Pecorino to 1/2 ounce. As an experiment for this article, we tried using Grana Padano, which is cheaper and easier to find.
- The method you use to grind the basil leaves will definitely have an impact on the result. A pesto made with a mortar and pestle will often turn out to be more clearly infused with the flavors of all the ingredients than if you use a food processor. The classic Italian set featuring a marble mortar and a large olivewood pestle remains the best tool to use.
1. Remove all stems from your basil bunch.
- If you’re using a food processor, place all the ingredients in, except the oil.
- If you’re using a mortar, the order in which you pestle the ingredients matters. Start by crushing the garlic and sea salt until you obtain a full paste, then add the pine nuts, then the basil leaves, in small batches, until they have all been crushed to fine bits.
- If you’re using a food processor, blend until you obtain a smooth mixture, but, while blending, slowly drizzle in olive oil to emulsify it as much as possible with the flavors of the ingredients.
- If you’re using a mortar, only now can you add the cheese and the oil, drizzling it in as you work the pesto.
4. Once you’ve obtained a fairly smooth, creamy, emulsified sauce, your pesto is ready to be served with pasta or any other dish you like.
B. Pesto rosso
What you’ll need:
- 14 oz sun-dried tomatoes (400 g) (see note)
- 2 tbsp pine nuts (30 g)
- 1 1/2tbsp peeled almonds (20 g)
- Food processor
- A couple of basil leaves to taste (optional)
- Olive oil to taste (optional)
- 1 1/2tbsp capers (optional)
Note: This pesto is typically made with sun-dried tomatoes drenched in olive oil and seasoned with capers, oregano, garlic, and vinegar. These are called “Pomodori secchi sott’olio.” If you can’t find them, you can use regular sun-dried tomatoes previously rehydrated in water until soft. You’ll then have to add the rest of the ingredients when making your pesto.
- If you’re using Pomodori secchi sott’olio, add all the ingredients in the food processor and mix until you obtain a smooth paste and you’re done.
- If you’re using regular sun-dried tomatoes:
1. Make sure to let them soak in water for a while until they soften.
2. Then add all ingredients to the food processor, except the oil.
3. Mix until you obtain a smooth consistency.
4. Blend again, but now slowly drizzle in the olive oil to emulsify it as much as possible with the flavors of the ingredients, and you’re done.
- You can enjoy your pesto with pasta or any other dish you like.