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1st Lake Blog

Presto, Pesto! Quick Pesto Recipe

Want to take your pasta up a notch? Add depth of flavor to burgers? Take a break from basic butter on your toast? There’s a spread that does it all, and then some — and it’s so, so easy to make.

Pesto comes from the Italian word for “pounded,” and though it was originally made in a mortar and pestle (it’s still traditionally made this way in parts of Italy), today, you can whip it up ultra fast thanks to modern cooking appliances like blenders and food processors.

pesto ingredients

All the ingredients you’ll need for a classic, Genovese-style pesto. (Photo via Flickr user umami)

Read our Pesto Genovese recipe below, courtesy of Saveur, and keep scrolling for clever modifications that produce bold, rich flavors, plus tips and tricks for perfect pesto every time.

Pesto Recipe: Pesto Genovese

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups packed basil
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp finely grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Coarse salt, to taste (sea salt preferred)

Recipe:

Place basil, nuts, and garlic in a food processor blender and process until finely minced. Slowly add olive oil in a steady stream as the machine is running. Continue adding oil until the mixture is smooth. Then, add the cheese and process just long enough to combine.

Pesto Recipe Variations

Once you master a basic pesto recipe, there are infinite variations! Try different nuts, like pistachios or walnuts. You can also experiment with different oils, like avocado oil or coconut oil, or cheeses like pecorino. Even the herbs are up for experimenting! Skip the basil and try adding parsley, spinach, or kale. Just adhere to the basic recipe below for the ratio you’ll need of each ingredient:

  • 1 part herbs
  • ½ part nuts
  • ½ part cheese
  • ½ part oil
  • ¼ – ½ tsp salt
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic

Pesto Pro Tips

Pesto is almost foolproof, but there are a few tips and tricks worth knowing:

  • If you’re using a basil pesto, search for the smallest, palest leaves, which indicate the youngest, freshest plant.
  • If you can’t find young basil, you can soften leaves by blanching them in simmering water for about 30 seconds and then plunging into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
  • Italian pine nuts are the gold standard for classic pesto, but they’re also expensive. Save money by opting for walnuts — but soak them first in hot water for at least an hour to alleviate any bitter taste.
  • Lightly toast the nuts for an added depth of flavor.
  • You can modify your pesto to meet vegan requirements by swapping parmesan for vegan cheese.

Need more dinner ideas? Check out all of our cooking tips