Pound Your Own Pesto!
Pesto is a versatile sauce that can be blended into soups and pastas or turned into a schmear to put on your morning bagel. Pesta is the Italian word for pesto, which means “to pound or to crush”—which makes sense when you think about the traditional ingredients that go into a pesto, like olive oil, fresh basil, crushed garlic, and grated cheese.
Before you buy pesto from the supermarket, consider whipping together the sauce on your own. This way, as with any DIY project, you control the exact ingredients that go into it.
Pesto recipes to try
Let’s get you started with some delicious pesto recipes. These are basic pestos, but feel free to adapt them to your tastes. That’s the beauty of pesto!
This basic pesto will come in handy for almost any dish, from pizza to pasta. A pesto sauce is extremely flavorful, but there aren’t a whole lot of extravagant ingredients that go into it. All you need are some basil leaves, garlic, lightly toasted pine nuts, Kosher salt, and some extra virgin olive oil.
- 2 cups tightly packed basil leaves
- 1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons lightly toasted pine nuts
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed
Place the basil, garlic, pine nuts, salt, and olive oil in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine the mixture, scrapping down the sides often.
Continuing pulsing until reaching desired consistency.
Searching for the perfect addition to your spinach salad? Look no further than some pesto. Make it as thick or as thin as you want by using less or more olive oil. Drizzle the mixture over a salad or use it to top off a plate of vegetables.
- 4 cups leftover spinach
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 cups fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 3/4 tablespoons olive oil
Grab a food processor or blender and add everything but the olive oil. Blend for about 30 seconds, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil while the machine is still running.
Note: Keep in mind, the more olive oil you use, the thinner the pesto.
Process until smooth and serve with anything from pasta and veggies to chicken and fish.
Store leftover pesto in a jar or other container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Pesto also freezes well if you make a lot.
If you love basil, try making a pesto with basil as a base. You use about 1-1/2 cups of basil leaves and combine them with Parmesan cheese, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, lightly toasted pine nuts and garlic cloves.
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1-1/2 bunches fresh basil leaves (about 1 1/2 cups lightly packed)
- 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a food processor pulse the garlic, basil, and pine nuts until coarsely chopped.
Mix in the Parmesan cheese and pulse to mix well.
With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Season the pesto to taste with salt and pepper and chill covered until using.
Note: To change the consistency of the pesto to a more saucy texture, add more extra virgin olive oil for desired consistency, tasting as you go.
Use unique ingredients
Even if you don’t have the traditional pesto ingredients lying around your kitchen, you can still whip up a mean sauce. Don’t believe us? Check out these common ingredients that can be used to make fresh pesto:
Give your pesto a south of the border taste by adding cilantro with some toasted almonds, cotija cheese, lime juice, olive oil, salt, and garlic. This mixture would be perfect for some chicken or fish tacos or to top off your freshly grilled steak.
Summer is the best time to enjoy fresh corn on the cob. But why limit your enjoyment to just on the cob pleasures? Any leftover corn you have can help create a creamy pesto sauce. Try combining bacon slices and fresh corn kernels with garlic cloves, basil leaves, olive oil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and salt. Once blended together, use this tasty sauce on fettuccini noodles for an amazing summer pasta dish.
Don’t have any basil? Then turn to its equally green counterpart, parsley. Just mix parsley with other traditional pesto ingredients such as Kosher salt, roasted almonds, fresh chives, olive oil, black pepper, and some Parmesan. Toss it with spaghetti or use it as a spread on fresh bread for the perfect appetizer.
Tips for the perfect pesto
If you’ve never made pesto, check out these easy tips to ensure your sauce turns out creamy and flavorful.
- Don’t be afraid to tweak: When making pesto, the exact measurement of each ingredient isn’t always necessary. Try following the recipe the first time to see how it comes out, but then feel free to tweak it. For instance, if you would like the sauce to be a little thicker, just add less olive oil. Rely on your inner culinary instincts for a delicious pesto.
- Grow your own ingredients: Why not grow your own basil and parsley right in your kitchen? Not only would they help brighten up the space, but would add a great element of freshness. Plus, you won’t have to keep going back to the grocery store to buy more!
- Taste the pine nuts: Before throwing pine nuts into your pesto, taste them. You want to make sure they’re fresh. When not using them, store pine nuts in the refrigerator to extend their shelf life. If you find pine nuts aren’t to your liking, try substituting almonds or walnuts.
- Don’t be afraid to make a lot: Once you’ve nailed down the perfect pesto recipe, make a big batch! The sauce can be kept in the freezer for about three months and thawed whenever you need it.
Try these recipes
Use the pestos as described, or feel free to improvise with your preferred personal pesto.
- 2 garlic cloves smashed into coarse puree
- 1-1/2 bunches fresh basil leaves (about 1-1/2 cups lightly packed)
- 1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 9 ounces dried spaghetti
- 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
- 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, shaved, for garnish
- 2 tablespoons basil leaves, torn for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 F.
To make the pesto:
Using a mortar and pestle, smash the garlic into a coarse puree.
Add bunches of basil and pound until it is coarsely chopped. Mix in the grated Parmesan cheese.
Add 1/3 cup of pine nuts and smash to break them up.
Slowly mix in 1/4 cup of olive oil. Season the pesto to taste with salt and pepper. Set it aside.
To cook chicken:
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large ovenproof sauté pan over high heat.
Sprinkle the chicken breasts generously with salt and pepper. Cook the chicken breasts just until golden brown but not yet cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.
Remove the pan from the heat. Spread the pesto over the top of the chicken breasts.
Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the chicken is just cooked through, about 8 minutes.
To prepare the pasta:
Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water over high heat until al dente, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking, about 8 minutes.
Drain the spaghetti, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water in a large sauté pan over medium heat.
Whisk 1 tablespoon of olive oil into the reserved pasta cooking water to blend well. Add the spaghetti and parsley and toss to coat.
To plate and serve:
Using a two-pronged carving fork, swirl some of the pasta around the fork. Slide the pasta off the fork and mound it in the center of a plate. Repeat for each serving.
Cut each chicken breast crosswise and on a slight diagonal into 4 slices. Arrange the chicken slices alongside the spaghetti.
Garnish with the remaining 1/4 cup of pine nuts, shaved Parmesan cheese, and torn basil. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over and serve.
- 3 large plum tomatoes
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
- 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 package (3/4 ounce) rapid-rise or quick-rise yeast
- 3/4 to 1 cup cold water
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, divided
- 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, cut into chunks
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 medium garlic clove
- 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 6 ounces fresh mozzarella balls (1-inch in diameter), cut in half
- Additional chopped fresh basil and black pepper
Fit KitchenAid 13-cup Food Processor with multipurpose slicing blade. Using medium setting (3), slice tomatoes. Sprinkle sliced tomatoes on both sides with 1/2 teaspoon salt; arrange on paper towels. Top tomato slices with an additional layer of paper towels; set aside.
Fit food processor with dough blade. In processor bowl, combine flour, yeast, and remaining salt. Pulse to blend ingredients. Turn processor to high and add water gradually through feed tube until a soft dough forms.
Process dough about 30 seconds until smooth and elastic. Remove dough to a well-oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap; allow to rise 30 minutes. Brush 13- x 9-inch baking pan with 1 tablespoon of oil. Punch down dough and place onto pan.
Meanwhile, fit processor with mini-bowl and mini-multipurpose blade. Add basil, 6 tablespoons pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, water, garlic, and black pepper. Process on high until well combined and nearly smooth.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Spread basil (pesto) mixture carefully over top of dough. Arrange tomato slices evenly over pesto. Bake 20-25 minutes or until bottom of crust is golden brown.
Top evenly with fresh mozzarella cheese. Return to oven for 3-4 minutes or until cheese is just beginning to melt.
Sprinkle with reserved 2 tablespoons pine nuts, additional chopped basil and black pepper. Allow to cool 3 minutes before cutting into triangles with serrated knife.
Yield: 8 servings, or 16 appetizer servings
Recipe courtesy of KitchenAid. ©2011 KitchenAid, USA, All Rights Reserved.