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Basil Pesto

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Yields 1-1/2 cups.

This recipe is easily doubled.

  • 1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 cups packed basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, preferably a fruity one

Bring 2 qt. water seasoned with 1 Tbs. of the salt to a rolling boil. Meanwhile, set up an ice bath by combining ice and water in a medium bowl.

Put the basil in the boiling water, pressing it gently under the water, and cook for just 2 or 3 seconds. Quickly remove the basil from the water (a Chinese strainer works great here) and plunge it immediately into the ice bath to stop the cooking process. Let cool completely for 2 minutes.

Remove the basil from the ice bath and squeeze it lightly with your hands or in a clean dishtowel to remove most of the excess water.

Chop the basil coarsely with a sharp knife and then put it in a blender. Add the 1/4 cup ice water, the garlic, the pine nuts, the cheese, the remaining 1 tsp. salt, and the pepper. Blend until the basil is coarsely puréed, scraping down the sides and adding more water to facilitate blending only if needed. Be patient; don’t add more water if it isn’t necessary. With the blender running, add the oil in a steady stream until the pesto looks creamy and emulsified. Cover and store in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for up to a few months.

Basil Pesto Recipe
Chopping the basil speeds blending. Squeeze out the excess water first.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : per Tbs.; Calories (kcal): 60; Fat (g): 6; Fat Calories (kcal): 50; Saturated Fat (g): 1; Protein (g): 1; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 4; Carbohydrates (g): 1; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1; Sodium (mg): 340; Cholesterol (mg): 0; Fiber (g): 0;

Photo: Joanne Smart

I picked way too much basil and wasn't pleased with the other recipe I tried. The basil wasn't going to keep stuck in water glasses forever but I didn't have time to do the recipe all at once. I blanched four batches of basil for this recipe, wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap (getting air out), and kept it in the fridge for two days. Ran the food processor tonight and it was easy, pretty (very green!), and yummy. Even with the extra step of blanching it was worth it. The pesto stayed bright green and had a great consistency.

This is now my go-to pesto recipe. It's simple, foolproof, and the blanching creates a creamy, bright green pesto without the unpleasant bitterness you sometimes get with more traditional techniques.

Great recipe! It delivers what it promises--a smooth creamy pesto. We both loved the color and the taste. I will definitely make and freeze more pesto with all the basil we have left in the garden. Worth the extra step of blanching.

This is the best basil pesto recipe I've found. Blanching the basil sweetens the pesto just a bit. I've also used the same technique to make sorrel pesto which also turned out great.

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