How to make pesto (2024)

You may have seen jars of this green sauce in the supermarket aisles, or ordered pesto pasta from your local Italian restaurant. But what is pesto? What ingredients is pesto made from? And how easy is it to make your own version? Find out in the article below.

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How to make pesto

When most people think of pesto, they’re thinking of the traditional “pesto alla Genovese” that originated in the city of Genoa, the capital of Liguria in Italy. It’s made from a blend of fresh basil leaves, raw garlic, pine nuts, parmesan, pecorino, olive oil and salt. But, there are actually hundreds of variations on pesto and you can customise it however you like. If you’ve never made it at home, give this pesto recipe a try! Making it at home is so easy, and it's extra fresh and flavourful.

What does pesto taste like?

Traditional pesto is a thick, green sauce that tastes bright and herby from the basil, and salty and rich from the cheeses and pine nuts. It should be garlicky, withpleasant grassiness from good quality olive oil. The bite from the garliccan be rounded out by heating the sauce, for example with pasta, meats or vegetables.

How do you use pesto?

Pesto can be used as a pasta sauce, sandwich spread, pizza sauce, an accompaniment to meat, fish, chicken and vegetables, in salads, as a dip and much more. Find plenty of recipes that use pesto here.

What else can you put in pesto?

  • Instead of basil:
    Make different types of pesto without using basil. Try herbs such as parsley or coriander. Soft greens such as rocket, spinach or watercress work well. You can also use vegetables like kale, though they may need to be softened by blanching or wilting. Thisrecipe for coriander pestouses coriander and cashews, and makes a wonderful accompaniment to a creamy chicken curry. Make a red pesto by using sun-dried tomatoes in place of greens. This variation is tangy and equally delicious.
  • Instead of pine nuts:
    You can make pesto without pricey pine nuts. Walnuts are a favourite substitute due to their similar texture. Almonds, cashews, pecans, macadamias and pistachios are also worth blitzing up. For nut-free pesto, leave out the nuts and add oil gradually to ensure your sauce is not too oily.
  • Instead of olive oil:
    Neutral oils such as peanut, canola or grapeseed work well if you want pesto without olive oil. You won’t have the distinct grassy flavour from the olive oil, so ensure you use a tasty green leaf and cheese and you’ll still have a delicious pesto.
  • Instead of garlic:
    Some say that pesto isn’t pesto without garlic, but you can reduce the amount of garlic to taste or leave it out. You’ll still have a delicious sauce that will work just as well.

Now you know all about pesto and how to customise it, try making it yourself at home! Watch the video below and check out more recipes using pesto.

Traditional pesto recipe

This basic pesto recipe couldn't be simpler, a handful of ingredients,a quickblitz, and voilà! So much better than the pre-made jars. Trust us,you won't be able to resistputting it on everything.

More Tips & Advice

How to make pesto (2024)


How to make pesto better? ›

Add a pinch of salt if the basil tastes too bitter or the pesto needs more zing. Add more Parmesan if you'd like a creamier/cheesier pesto. If desired, you can thin out the pesto with more olive oil.

How do you properly can pesto? ›

If you want to preserve pesto for later use it needs to be frozen. There are no safe home canned recommendations for pesto. The major ingredients in pesto are non-acidic and could support the growth of disease causing bacteria like clostridium botulinum.

How much pesto is enough? ›

For pesto sauces, use about one jar of 5.6-ounce sauce for a 16-ounce package of pasta. The amount of pesto sauce needed for pasta per person would be about . 75 ounces of sauce for each 2 ounce (about 1 cup cooked) serving of pasta.

What are the ingredients for pesto sauce? ›

Traditional pesto is a blend of fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, extra-virgin olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. With a food processor, it comes together in just a few steps: Pulse the nuts, lemon juice, and garlic in the food processor until they're finely chopped.

What makes pesto taste so good? ›

What does pesto taste like? Traditional pesto is a thick, green sauce that tastes bright and herby from the basil, and salty and rich from the cheeses and pine nuts. It should be garlicky, with pleasant grassiness from good quality olive oil.

Why does my homemade pesto taste bad? ›

The most common reason for pesto tasting bitter is that the olive oil is past its best and has started to turn rancid. If the pesto has been made in a food processor or blender, there's also the possibility that it has turned bitter from the crude, sheering action of the blades.

How do you make pesto not so strong? ›

Adding a small amount of acidity (lemon juice or vinegar) and balancing that with a little sweetness (sugar or honey) is the best way to take the edge off a pesto that tastes overwhelmingly of garlic. Almost every cuisine on earth makes use of garlic, and it's a vital component in pesto.

What thickens pesto? ›

If the pesto remains too thin, one can mix in a small amount of starch or use pasta water to achieve the desired thickness. The starchy water adds thickness without altering the flavor significantly. Add a tablespoon of pasta water and mix well; repeat if necessary until desired thickness is reached.

How long will homemade pesto last? ›

FAQ: How Long Does Homemade Pesto Last? You can store this basil pesto in a jar or sealable container, then tightly seal and refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 2–3 months. Let it thaw at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Is it OK to eat pesto everyday? ›

You might not want to douse everything you eat with pesto, but you wouldn't want to do that with any food. Variety and moderation are important. Pesto can be a healthier replacement for cream-based sauces since it's made with olive oil and nuts.

How much pesto for 2 people? ›

How Much Pesto To Add To Pasta?
ServingsDried pastaPesto
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Jun 1, 2022

How much pesto for 1 lb of pasta? ›

I usually use around 1/3 to 1/2 cup pesto per 1 pound of pasta. If you accidentally add too much pesto, just add in a bit more pasta water.

What can I use instead of pine nuts in pesto? ›

Almonds would be my choice, they have a delicate flavor. Unsalted cashews work well also. Macadamia and brazil nuts are also really good, though not necessarily cheaper than pine nuts. I prefer pecans to walnuts, since they are somewhat sweeter.

What is traditional pesto made of? ›

Originating from Genoa, the capital city of Liguria Italy, Pesto alla Genovese is made with fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, salt, olive oil and hard cheese, traditionally Pecorino and Parmesan.

Can you can homemade pesto? ›

A note on storage and preservation: Pesto is one of the few foods that we do not recommend canning in any form; because of the cheese and nuts it contains, and a relatively low acidity, it cannot be safely water-bath canned.

How can I increase the flavor of my pesto? ›

Pour in a bit of acid

Whether it's white vinegar, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, or another option altogether, integrating some acid can up the intensity of your pesto sauce. It's particularly helpful since the texture and flavor of jarred pesto sauces varies greatly from brand to brand.

How do Italians eat pesto? ›

Italian Tradition

Pesto is the perfect sauce to enjoy with a dish of trofie (the traditional Ligurian short pasta), lasagna, potato gnocchi or as a topping for a bowl of minestrone. It can be mixed into tomato sauce to enhance the flavor of pasta dishes or used with fish fillets to make them more appetizing.

How do you make a jar of pesto go further? ›

Add 1/4 cup chicken stock and a bit of heavy cream, maybe 2 Tbsp, and add in my pesto.

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