I’m a sucker for pesto.
It reminds me of summer in the garden or last minute weekend trips to Italy.
And it seems I’m not alone – I read somewhere it’s the second most used sauce for pasta in the world (I’m hazarding a wild guess tomato is the first!).
Pesto comes from the Italian verb pestare which means to crush, to trample, to pound and in Italy, the sauce is used exclusively on pasta (except when it’s used to enhance Minestrone alla Genovese).
Which means I probably shouldn’t go to Italy anytime soon, as I put pesto everywhere – on pasta (of course!), but also on pizza bases, vegetables, baked potatoes and chicken.
Personally I find it can also be a cunning way to get fussier kids to eat something *green*.
So when when a bunch of basil the size of a small island turned up in my veg box, I took the plunge and taught myself how to make pesto sauce from scratch.
The recipe is so quick and easy, it literally takes a few minutes to rustle up.
This makes it ideal for those times when the kids are circling the fridge and need something filling quick.
Once you’ve tasted this fresh homemade pesto, I seriously doubt you’ll revert to the ready-made versions ever again. Fresh basil really does take pesto to a whole new level.
You’ll need some sort of blender to make this pesto sauce – I use a simple hand blender like one of these – they’re easy to use and clean and are invaluable for blitzing homemade soups and sauces in seconds.
Try Your Hand at Growing Your Own Basil
Basil is pretty easy to grow yourself too.
So if you fancy going homegrown as well as homemade, I find these kits a good value place to start…(or just chuck some seeds into a pot in your garden and hey presto, or even hey pesto!! (sorry))
Ok, here’s what you need for this super quick, (+ super yummy) homemade pesto sauce:
How to make pesto sauce from scratch – what you’ll need
*Lovely big bunch of fresh basil leaves (about 2 packed cup fulls)
*Generous glug (about half a cup) of extra virgin olive oil (I prefer the cloudy versions as they are less processed)
*Handful of pine nuts
*Couple of peeled garlic cloves (I use 3 as I love, love garlic, but how much you add is obviously up to you and your taste buds)
*About a third of a cup of grated Parmesan
*Pinch of rock salt
*Ground black pepper to taste
*2-3 squeezes of fresh lemon
How to make pesto sauce from scratch – the instructions
Step 1- Discard any flower stems or stalks, if your basil still has these attached. Then rinse your fresh basil leaves in a colander with some fresh water.
Step 2 – Place the basil, pine nuts and grated Parmesan into a food processor (or suitable bowl if using a hand blender)
Step 3 – Blitz for a few seconds
Step 4 – Slowly add the olive oil as you continue blending the mixture
Step 5 – Continue until you have a smoothish pesto sauce consistency
Step 6 – Add the salt and pepper to taste and a squeeze or two of lemon juice
Step 7 – Pop into a mason jar or other suitable airtight container
And hey pesto! You’re all done.
Once your fresh pesto is ready, simply toss it with some freshly cooked spaghetti or pasta and sprinkle some Parmesan on the top for a final Italian flourish!
If you don’t plan to use your fresh homemade pesto immediately, the sauce will last perfectly well for a few days in the fridge where the flavours will actually combine even more. (Make sure you use an airtight container to ensure maximum freshness and also prevent your fridge smelling like a garlic farm!)
Some easy alternatives:
If you like to mix things up a bit, I find these variations work really well too.
Variation 1 – Swap the pine nuts for walnuts for a tasty twist to your pesto sauce.
Variation 2 – Substitute the basil with a jar of sun dried tomatoes.
I also love adding fresh pesto to my homemade pizza bases, as an alternative to the more traditional tomato sauce. It goes great on brushetta too.
How to Make Pesto Sauce From Scratch
- 2 packed cups fresh basil
- half cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 handful pine nuts
- 2-3 peeled garlic cloves
- third cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 pinch rock salt (or any salt will do)
- few grinds freshly ground black pepper
- 2-3 squeezes fresh lemon juice
Discard any flower stems or stalks, if your basil still has these attached. Then rinse your fresh basil leaves in a colander with some fresh water.
Place the basil, pine nuts and grated Parmesan into a food processor (or suitable bowl if using a hand blender).
Blitz for a few seconds.
Slowly add the olive oil as you continue blending the mixture.
Continue until you have a smoothish pesto sauce consistency
Add salt and pepper to taste and a few squeezes of lemon juice.
Add the salt and pepper to taste and a squeeze or two of lemon juice
Pop into into a mason jar or other suitable container