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Authentic Basil Pesto Recipe

How to make authentic basil pesto the traditional way with a mortar and pestle. The one done by Italian grandmothers as once upon a time.

Authentic Basil Pesto Recipe

Nowadays many go the easy way with a food processor or a blender. More practical and even used among authentic purists pesto lovers. Three pulses and you have it!

So why make basil pesto with pestle & mortar?

I tried both ways with and without. Not to say that the blender doesn’t make it good, it does so well. So for me is just a matter of love. I simply  don’t like to process food much, especially if there’s a way to manage it by hands.

As you might had seen over my posts I don’t make a lot of use of cooking tools even though my wife has a food processor that sometimes I do use. I made a superb arugula pesto appetizer with a food processor in just a few minutes, and other recipes too especially when I have hurry, and most of us do.

So, go for a blender or a food processor when making pesto, I wont say nothing. But when it comes to the basil make a better choice and buy it fresh.

With a whole pot of fresh basil like the one below you can have many leaves to make enough pesto for about 4 servings of trofie, spaghetti or alternatively even gnocchi or lasagna. Those are among pasta the best choices for a basil pesto.

Fresh Basil Pot

Pesto Recipe

Ingredients: serves 4

  • ¼ cup (60g) pine nuts lightly toasted
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 lb (450g) small basil leaves
  • 8 tbsp (ml.118) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp (5g) salt
  • ¼ cup (60g) grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano)
  • ¼ cup (60g) grated pecorino cheese

Preparation: easy

Pasta with this pesto recipe makes an excellent main course. It's traditionally served with trofie, but spaghetti, homemade orecchiette or homemade gnocchi goes either well.

Quick if you use a food processor or blender.

  1. Toast the pine nuts in a small heavy skillet over medium heat, stir frequently until golden, 4 to 5 minutes.
  2. Place the garlic cloves, pine nuts, basil leaves, olive oil and salt in your food processor, process until smooth stopping as necessary.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl, stir in the finely grated parmesan and pecorino.

If you want you can cover the pesto with a thin film of oil and keep refrigerated for a few days.

Method with Mortar & Pestle

If you decide to make pesto the traditional way it will require you about fifteen minutes or more just for pounding alone.

The basil must be broken down totally to get the full basil flavor of pesto made in a mortar and pestle. But you must belive me, it's worth it!

  1. Start pounding an handful of basil leaves, a garlic clove, a pinch of salt
  2. Add a few pine nuts.
  3. Pour a little stream of olive oil and keep pounding while you add a spoon of Parmesan and one of pecorino cheese.
  4. Repeat this process until you finish all the ingredients.

I guarantee you that the advantage of using the method with mortar and pestle is that you'll produce a pesto with a full basil flavor.

I fully understand because this is much more work to make pesto and if you don't have much time go for the food processor method.

Method with Mortar & Pestle

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