Classic Ligurian Basil Pesto Recipe


Sauces, dips, dressings, and condiments from around the world.

Classic Ligurian Basil Pesto Recipe

When devising a plan for the Sauced column, I really wanted to address the traditional condiments first. Understanding the basics will be beneficial down the road as we build a bigger sauce portfolio. Now three weeks in (here's the ketchup, mustard, and garlic chili oil columns, in case you missed them) all of your suggestions have made it hard to stay the courseā€”I want to try it all now! Alas, I'm coming at you with another classic this week, basil pesto. (Hang tight, SE'rs, I'll get to the rest.)

Pesto is ripe for experimentation but if we're talking traditional, it's going to be basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and cheese combined into a smooth paste. I really wanted to go Grandma-style and make it in a mortar and pestle, but unfortunately don't own one large enough. That led me to the simpler, food processor method.

It's quick work to get all the ingredients chopped and combined into a nutty, herbal paste. This instantly adds so much flavor and beauty to a host of foods including pasta, dips, and meats.

  • Yield:Makes 1 cup
  • Total time:15 minutes


  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3 medium garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. 1.

    Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add basil leaves and cook for 15 seconds. Drain immediately and run under cold running water to cool. Wring dry in a clean kitchen towel.

  2. 2.

    Place basil and pine nuts in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until basil and pine nuts are finely chopped, about five 1-second pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add garlic and pulse to combine.

  3. 3.

    With the food processor running, pour oil through feed tube in a slow, steady stream. Keep food processor running until smooth, stopping to scrap down sides of bowl as necessary.

  4. 4.

    Add the Parmesan and pulse to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, or in a Ziploc bag in the freezer for up to six months.