Posted by: timscooking | March 8, 2010

Versatile and Easy Pesto Sauce

Pesto sauce is thought to have originated in the Liguria region of northwest Italy where the climate is more temperate than in the southern regions and is therefore more suited for growing one of pesto’s main ingredients, basil. It is not uncommon to see a pot of basil growing on the balconies or kitchen window sills of many of the town homes and for large garden plots dedicated to it in the countryside.

While traditionalists still use a mortar and pestle to pound the basil and combine it with garlic and olive oil, most recipes today suggest either a blender or food processor.  It is easy to make and while basil is the most common, you can use a variety of tender leaf herbs to make a pesto. Also, it can be used either in its raw state or cooked with excellent results either way.

I recently made a batch and used it on tomatoes and fresh mozzarella for a antipasto and used some of the remaining later in the week as a pasta sauce.

Pesto Sauce

4 c. loosely packed basil leaves

2 large cloves, garlic

1 c. grated parmesan cheese

1/2 c. toasted pine nuts

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil

Put the basil and garlic in a blender or food processor and pulse until they are chopped fine. Add the pine nuts and pulse 5 or 6 more times, just until the nuts are combined, add the parmesan and pulse and pulse to combine. Turn the machine on low and slowly add the olive oil just until the mixture starts to come together as a sauce. Season to taste with the salt, pulse to combine.

The finished sauce can be spooned, as is, on vegetables, chicken, or fish as a condiment. I’ve also used it as a pasta sauce by first draining the hot pasta, adding the pesto and then adding a 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid to thin the sauce.

Some variations to try: substitute parsley or arugula for the basil and toasted walnuts for the pine nuts. The sauce will store well in an airtight container with a layer of olive oil covering to surface of the sauce for 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.



  1. This sounds like a good alternative to the traditional tomato sauce! Need some good non meat ideas for Fridays and this willl spice up the pasta option!

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