Pesto is one of my favorite foods.
That’s right, favorite foods. Not just sauces.
I’ve tried countless pestos and variations over the years. But the pesto recipe I share today is for the Best Classic Pesto.
Most of us know pesto as a green sauce made from pine nuts, garlic, hard cheese, and basil. (Known as Genoese pesto.)
But the definition of “pesto” is actually much broader.
Pesto describes any sauce made from pounding or crushing. According to an Italian friend of mine, the word “pesto” is derived from the way this sauce was traditionally prepared—with a mortar and pestle.
The Best Classic Pesto Recipe
My classic pesto recipe is of the Genoese style. The ingredients of my pesto are simple: olive oil, garlic, sea salt, basil, Parmesan, and pecorino. It’s reminiscent of the pesto I enjoyed on my first trip to Italy.
At lunch one day, I ordered pesto gnocchi. And that’s all it took. For every remaining meal on that trip, I made sure that pesto was a component.
Make This Classic Pesto Recipe!
I’ve gone back to Italy a few times since, and my pesto habits remain the same: come mealtime, I search the restaurant menus for pesto.
Hopefully another visit to Italy is in my near future. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy this classic pesto.
A Few Things
One day I’ll go all out and prepare my classic pesto with a mortar and pestle [aff. link]. Until then, I’ll use my food processor. Use your favorite blending/processing device for this pesto recipe.
Don’t limit your pesto consumption to pasta. Check out my other recipes where pesto plays an important role. I love to use pesto as an aioli on sandwiches, as a dip for chickpeas and roasted potatoes, and as a pizza sauce.
The Best Classic Pesto
- ¾ cup pine nuts
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 4 cups basil, rinsed
- ⅓ cup Pecorino, freshly grated or ground
- ⅓ cup Parmesan, freshly grated or ground
- ¾ cup olive oil
Process the pine nuts and garlic
- To the bowl of your food processor/preferred processing apparatus, add the pine nuts and garlic cloves.
- Pulse a few times, then process until the pine nuts and garlic are smooth and combined.
Add the basil, sea salt, and cheese
- Now add the basil and sea salt to the pine nut/garlic mixture. Process again until a mostly smooth green paste forms.
- Now add the Pecorino and Parmesan. Process again until the cheese has completely incorporated.
Add the olive oil
- Last, add the olive oil to the food processor. Process until the olive oil incorporates completely into the rest of the ingredients.
- Pesto is done. Enjoy as a pizza sauce, dipping sauce, on sandwiches etc. Or follow my recipe below for pesto pasta.
Make pesto pasta
- Bring 12-14 cups of salted water (I use scant 1 Tbsp sea salt) to a boil.
- Cook 1 pound of pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta, and put it back in the pot.
Add the pesto and pasta water
- Quickly add ½ cup of pesto to the pasta. With tongs or a spoon and fork, toss the pesto into the pasta.
- Now add about ⅓ cup of the reserved pasta water to the pot. Toss the water into the pasta. The water will help spread and incorporate the pesto into the pasta.
- Taste, and add more pesto and pasta water as desired. I usually end up adding about 1 cup of pesto and ½-¾ cup water, but use more or less according to your own preference. The more pesto you use, the stronger the flavor will be. The more water you use, the thinner the pesto will be.
Serve and enjoy!
- Serve the pesto pasta with freshly grated Parmesan. Add tomatoes and chickpeas to the pot to make it a one pot meal. Or serve the pesto pasta with your favorite meat substitute and a salad like this one.