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How to Make the Best Pesto Sauce

Basil Pesto SauceBasil pesto is as indispensable to pasta lovers as chili is to chili lovers. Tossed with freshly cooked pasta it makes a fabulous meal. It also compliments a wide variety of other foods making it a must have in any foodie's pantry.

This recipe by Jerry Traunfeld, published in The Herb Farm Cookbook, makes the best basil pesto I've ever tasted. Follow his directions to the letter and you'll also end up with a perfectly balanced fragrant and voluptuous basil pesto sauce.

Making it by hand with a mortar and pestle arguably produces the better pesto. But with a processor or blender you can make a perfectly good batch of pesto in just a few minutes and with very little effort.

Makes about 1 cup, enough to sauce a bowl of pasta for 4


  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons raw pine nuts
  • teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups sweet basil leaves, gently packed
  • cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  • In a food processor (or hand held blender), process the garlic, pine nuts and salt until finely ground. About 15 seconds.
  • Add the basil leaves to the bowl and process in spurts until no whole leaves remain.
  • With the machine running, pour the oil through the feed tube in a steady stream. Stop and scrape down the sides, then process for several more seconds. The mixture should be ground to a paste-like consistency but a little bit of the leaves' texture should remain. If necessary, quickly pulse the mixture again.
  • Add the cheese and pulse until just incorporated.
  • Serve immediately.

More Pesto Recipes and Resources

  • Take your cooking to the next level with a FREE Herbal Learning Centre membership.
  • The Best Basil Pesto Recipe employs the mortar and pestle method and it is by far the most popular pesto with our students and guests.
  • Our Master Pesto Recipe gives you simple ratios for creating your own pesto recipes.
  • Follow Jerry Traunfeld (@poppyseatle) on Twitter and get a copy of his The Herb Farm Cookbook.

Frequently Asked Questions about Pesto

What is pesto?
Pesto is a classic cold Italian basil sauce from Genoa. It's a bright green, aromatic and full-flavoured sauce with a thick pouring consistency. The name 'pesto' comes from the original method of preparing the basil by pounding it with a pestle in a mortar.

What is in pesto?
The classic Italian pesto is simply fresh basil leaves pounded with a bit of salt, a handful of pine nuts, some grated Parmesan cheese, and some richly flavoured olive oil.

Can I freeze pesto?
Though nothing compares to a batch of freshly made pesto it does have excellent keeping qualities. You can keep it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks and for longer storage you can freeze it for up to 6 months.

FREE Herb Lesson Download

What Goes With...? A Foodies Guide to Seasoning with Herbs and Spices
If you've ever wondered what goes with what, this lesson is especially for you. Featuring more than 80 ingredients with their flavour combinations you'll be able to create familiar, friendly flavours as well as bold unexpected flavours.

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