Make your own fresh pesto!

Pesto is sauce that is made by mixing basil, pecorino or parmesan cheese, pine nuts (pinoli), salt, a little garlic and olive oil.

Michael Rossi pouring the oil into the blender



Pesto Information

The name "pesto" derives from the preparation of the sauce with a pestel and mortar, both very laborious and time consuming.

Pesto comes from the verte pestare, meaning to crush or beat. Pesto is a very old sauce, especially in cities on the sea, often hedged in by mountains and enemy fleets that might prevent access to food. In fact, all ingredients used in pesto can be kept for long periods while the basil could be easily grown on the window sills and preserved in oil for a long time. Pesto is most associated with Genoa, on the Ligurian sea, where this very popular condiment is said to have been created.

Fresh basil goes into the blender






Traditional Pesto

The original Genovese recipe produces a sharp, tangy sauce used exclusively with trenette (a fettuccine shaped pasta, though slightly thinner), minestrone, and gnocchi. It is made with the local small-leafed basil, fresh garlic, the finest Ligurian olive oil, local fresh Pecora (a mildly tangy sheep's milk cheese) and fine aged Parmesan. It is ground in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle and is used immediately after making. This sauce is not for the faint-hearted. It is sharp, tangy, and some say harsh. It is meant to satisfy a sailor's appetite for sharp, clean, green ingredients that he has done without for months. Only a few miles away in Nervi, the locals cut this recipe with cream to make it gentler to the palate. Pine nuts (and occasionally walnuts) were added to the recipe as it evolved, but were not used originally.

Pine Nuts

Pinaceae/ Pinus pinea e pinus cimbra
Also called pinoli, pine nuts are the edible kernels of several varieties of pine. Pinus pinea is used in sweet as well as in stuffings for various dishes. They are a traditional ingredient in pesto and commonly used in dessert cookery.


From Chef Michael Rossi

There is nothing like fresh pesto!


2 cups - Fresh Basil
1/4 cup - Pine Nuts
3 cloves - Garlic Cloves
1/2 cup - Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
1/2 cup - Extra virgin olive oil
to taste - Salt and Pepper
to taste - Lemon Juice


  • In a food processor or blender, combine the pine nuts, garlic and 2 tbsp. of oil and pulse until mixture is smooth.

  • Next add the basil, cheese and the remaining olive oil to the blender and blend until mixture is emulsified, about 3 minutes.

  • The mixture should creamy in consistency, not soupy!

  • Finish by adjusting seasoning with salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice.

Serve over pasta.

Keeps in refrigerator one week, or may be frozen.

Serves 4

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Traditional Pesto


36 - Fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons - Pecorino sardo*, grated*
2 tablespoons - Well aged Parmesan, grated
2 - Large cloves garlic
1 tablespoons - Pine nuts, toasted in the oven a few minutes until golden
1/3 to 1/2 cup - Extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon - Coarse salt (or to taste)


  • Carefully wash and dry the basil.

  • Place a few leaves with a little of the garlic and some of the salt (to preserve color) in the mortar.

  • As a paste is formed begin adding olive oil in dribbles.

  • Continue adding basil, garlic, nuts and salt as you grind, dribbling in enough oil to maintain the bright green color and thick consistency.

  • Stir in cheese last.

  • You may dilute with a little of the cooking water from the pasta if you wish.

  • After pasta is placed in the serving bowl, spoon the pesto over top, toss, and serve immediately.


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Interesting Facts!


Native to India, Africa and the Mediterranean, Basil was called "The Herb of Kings" by the ancient Greeks. Like many herbs Basil has some medicinal properties. For example it can be used to draw out poison from insect bites. Basil was said to have been found growing around Christ's tomb after the resurrection, and so some churches place it around altars and use it to prepare holy water.

An easy herb to grow, basil likes warm weather and lots of sun. There are many varieties of the herb, but the three most common seem to be the Large Leaf Basil, the tiny leafed Bush Basil, and the dark Purple Basil. The most common is the Large Leaf Basil, but they all work equally well in recipes. If you attempt to grow basil in a garden, or outside in a pot, be sure to wait until after the last frost. And also make sure you harvest your Basil plants long before the first cold snap in the fall. Basil is an annual plant, and so will not survive the winter outside. When harvesting your grop you should pull up the entire plant, including the root ball, clearing the way for next years crop.

Stalks of basil can be added to bottles of vinegar and used on salads. Use a good quality wine vinegar and allow the vinegar/Basil to steep for at least 2 weeks before using. You can do the same with a bottle of olive oil. Basil leaves can be dried and crumbled and used just like the store-bought varieties. Fresh Basil leaves can be packed into the bottom of an air-tight container, covered with olive oil, and stored in the fridge for a month or 2. Don't freeze your Basil! Freezing will render it useless.