The World's Best Italian Pesto Recipe—Video
Don't even think about reaching for your Cuisinart.
Ahhh… the rustic smell of basil leaves and garlic bring me back to my time in Sicily. I love getting my hands in there and working with these beautiful ingredients the way my nana used to do! So turn on some beautiful tunes of Andrea Bocelli, or watch Under the Tuscan Sun, while we take a mini-journey to Italia—without our passports!
Yes, it's easy to grab some store-bought pesto from your local grocery store, but I promise you that, once you try making it on your own, you won't want to go back. You can even make a big batch of this, and freeze some of it off to use anytime you need an easy appetizer or meal. It will all come together in less than 15 minutes, and the payoff is so worth it!
Before I landed on this method, I used to toss everything into my Cuisinart and blend away. Yes, it was very simple and super quick and tasted pretty good. But chopping everything by hand truly brings out the best in all of the flavor components and prevents your gorgeous pesto from turning into a paste.
There are a few tips that I want to share with you to truly elevate your dish from great to amazing! For one, always start out with the freshest basil leaves that you can find. (Did you know that the smaller baby leaves pack the biggest flavor punch?) You also want to make sure you are using a high-quality Italian cold-pressed olive oil. This is a dish that truly allows the oil to shine through, so using a mediocre oil can make it—or break it. Also, make sure your garlic cloves are fresh. No green centers allowed! (They can turn your lovely pesto into a bitter mess, pronto.) Next up, get a fresh chunk of parmesan and pecorino and either grate it yourself or have your cheesemonger do it for you. My last tip is to always toast your pine nuts. This will bring out their full flavor potential and truly elevate the sauce to another level.
The love and care you put into each ingredient will truly be returned to you in your final product here. So, let's get started. Buon appetito!
The World's Best Pesto Recipe:
- Large handful of basil leaves
- A handful of pine nuts (lightly toasted)
- 4 garlic cloves (peeled)
- ¾ cup pecorino cheese and parmesan cheese, grated (½ and ½ of each)
- High quality cold-pressed Italian olive oil (to taste)
- Squeeze of lemon
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
Start by chopping a third of the basil leaves, a third of the pine nuts, a third of the cheese, and a garlic clove. Then continue to incorporate the next third of each, and finally the last third.
Continue working until the oils begin to release from the basil and the ingredients start to come together. Once you've achieved a fine mince and your pesto is holding together nicely, place into a bowl and drizzle olive oil until desired consistency. Add a squeeze of lemon (to taste) and some freshly ground pepper.
Use as a pasta sauce, a marinade, or on steak or chicken. Or top on to toasted bread for a gorgeous bruschetta!
I paired my pesto with E. Prove, a Vermentino from Corsica. It has a great acidity to lift the pesto, plus a lemon peel note, which lends itself perfectly to the basil, garlic, and cheese. It has a beautiful salinity to it, as well. And the best part? It's under $20! And for more hot tips from The Hot Dish, don't miss The World's Best Guacamole Recipe.
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