Authentic Pesto Genovese is a versatile and delicious sauce that adds a burst of flavour to any dish. Whether you’re looking to spice up your pasta, add some zing to your sandwiches or elevate your appetisers, this Authentic Italian Pesto Recipe is a quick and easy way to achieve that. This homemade Pesto recipe is made with fresh basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts, and is bursting with flavours and aromas that will transport you straight to the heart of Italy. Give it a try and take your meals to the next level!
What Makes This Recipe Great!
- Quick and Easy – It’s ready in under 10 minutes.
- Healthier & Higher Quality – You can control what goes into the pesto when you make it at home.
- You Can Make it Ahead –It can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days or frozen for 6 months.
About This Recipe – In More Detail
Classic Pesto Genovese is a versatile and delicious sauce, with endless possibilities for use.
Authentic Italian Pesto is made predominantly with fresh basil leaves and toasted pine nuts. The inclusion of hard Italian cheeses including Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano, and a generous drizzling of extra virgin olive oil completes this delicious Italian sauce, making it ready to use in many different recipes. For an easy family dinner recipe, this Pesto Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes makes perfect use of this delicious basil salsa. You can also try making this delicious Burrata Bruschetta topped with pesto or a delicious side dish of Pesto Roasted Vegetables!
Making your own pesto is incredibly simple – just blend the ingredients together for a deliciously authentic Italian taste that’s ready to use in under 10 minutes.
Whether you’re using it as a pasta sauce, sandwich spread or a dip, this homemade pesto is sure to impress!
- Pestle and Mortar – Pounding the ingredients with a pestle and mortar brings out the flavour.
- Frying Pan – To toast the pine nuts.
- Blender – To blend all the ingredients into a paste before stirring in the olive oil.
- Fresh Basil Leaves – Do not substitute fresh basil for dried leaves.
- Toasted Pine Nuts – If you cannot get a hold of toasted pine nuts, buy regular pine nuts and toast them for a few minutes in a dry frying pan. Adding untoasted pine nuts can be the cause of a condition called pine mouth, so I wouldn’t recommend the risk.
- Garlic – This gives our Pesto a little added depth of flavour.
- Parmigiano Reggiano – An authentic Italian parmesan. You can substitute it for regular parmesan if you wish.
- Pecorino Romano – This is a hard cheese with a strong flavour made from sheep milk. It is produced in the Lazio region of Italy. If you find the taste too strong you can substitute it for Grana Padano or more Parmesan cheese.
- Salt – We use salt for seasoning. There is salt present in the hard cheese so you can omit this added extra if you prefer a lower sodium option.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – I recommend a good quality extra virgin olive oil for authenticity. However, be aware that it does not blend well and can produce a bitter taste. It is best to stir it in after the ingredients have been blended or use a regular olive oil as a substitute.
- Lemon Juice – This helps to prevent the pesto from turning brown. It is an optional ingredient however, so you don’t have to add it.
Where does Pesto come from?
Pesto originated in Liguria in Italy, you will often see the commercial types called Pesto alla Genovese, which is pesto that comes from Genoa, the capital of Liguria. This is the most popular type seen throughout the world.
Although the main ingredients in traditional pesto usually consist of the same things; Basil leaves, pine nuts, hard cheese, garlic and olive oil. There can be regional differences and basil pesto recipes can differ slightly from each other.
The name Pesto comes from the Italian word “pestare” which means “to pound” or to grind. Since, pesto was originally made using a pestle and mortar. You can also find other recipe variations without basil using the name pesto. In Sicily, for example, you often find Pesto al Pistachio which uses fewer basil leaves and pistacchio verde di Bronte (green pistachio from Bronte) in place of the pine nuts. Pesto Rosso is another example that is based on the use of sun dried tomatoes, making the sauce red and giving it it’s name. Around the world, there are many deviations from the traditional recipe, using a variety of greens and various different nuts to create the pounded sauce.
Step-By-Step How To Make Authentic Pesto Genovese
Step 1: Prepare Basil
- Thoroughly wash and dry the basil leaves, ensuring to remove most of the water.
Step 2: Chop Basil and Toast Pine Nuts
- Roughly chop the basil leaves.
- If needed, toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan for a few minutes.
Step 3: Crush Pine Nuts and Garlic
- Using a pestle and mortar, pound the pine nuts until crushed.
- Crush the garlic using a pestle and mortar.
Step 4: Blend Ingredients
- Finely grate the cheese.
- Place all the ingredients except the extra virgin olive oil into a blender.
- Blend until reaching the desired texture. Alternatively, pound them with a pestle and mortar to form a paste.
Step 5: Add Olive Oil and Store
- Stir in the olive oil.
- Store the Pesto Genovese in the fridge in an airtight container until ready to use, to prevent browning.
How to Prevent Fresh Pesto Turning Brown
Unfortunately, due to the fresh ingredients, pesto can quickly oxidise and turn brown when exposed to the air.
You can use a little lemon juice like we have in this recipe to help keep the bright green colour in your pesto looking vibrant.
An alternative way to prevent pesto turning brown is to blanche the leaves before adding to the recipe.
To blanche the basil leaves; simply place the leaves in boiling water for no more than 10 seconds and immediately transfer them to an ice bath. Drain and dry the leaves well, before adding into your recipe.
Always store the pesto in an airtight container and place it in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to use it.
You may also notice that Fresh Pesto has a slightly different smell to Shop Bought Pesto. That’s because everything is fresh and the basil is yet to be cooked. It has not been through any processing to make it last. However, be aware that it does have a limited shelf life and since it is so quick to make, I would always recommend using it when you make it.
Fresh pesto will store for up to 3 days in an airtight sterilised jar in the fridge. You can also freeze it for up to 6 months, but, be sure to freeze immediately upon making it. I recommend using an ice cube tray and freezing your pesto in portions.
This can be caused by using olive oil that is past its best. However, the most common reason is because you added the extra virgin olive oil to the blender. Blending the oil can produce a bitter taste, so we recommend stirring it in afterwards.
The brown colour is caused by oxidisation, you can counter it by adding lemon juice to the pesto or blanching the basil leaves before adding them to the recipe.
How to Use Authentic Pesto Genovese
Italian Pesto is extremely versatile and can be used in so many different ways.
You can use green basil pesto as an alternative to tomato sauce on a pizza. It goes well with a topping of roasted cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and parmesan. Add some fresh rocket leaves on top when your pizza leaves the oven.
A very simple recipe for Pesto is to stir it into warm cooked pasta and top with Parmesan. The flavours are amazing and it’s a very quick meal that’s ready in under 15 minutes. It goes down really well with kids too. You can also add green beans and peas to make it extra healthy too.
To make a super quick creamy pesto sauce for pasta. Simply add cream cheese and stir it in to warm, freshly cooked pasta.
You can try these roasted pesto vegetables, for an alternative to simple roast potatoes. Or try this easy meal with Pesto Pasta and Roasted Tomatoes. For something really special, make these Bruschetta Burrata.
Mixing in a teaspoon of pesto to mayonnaise, gives you a great dip that goes well in a burger, or as a sauce for potato wedges.
Pro Tips and Guidance
- Wash the fresh basil leaves and dry the leaves thoroughly – before adding to the blender. Extra surface water on the leaves can affect the texture of the finished Pesto.
- If you cannot find Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, using Grana Padano is fine. You can also use a basic parmesan cheese but the flavours of the cheese will not be as matured as an authentic Italian cheese.
- Enhance the Pesto – By using roasted garlic.
- Avoid Pine Mouth –Traditionally, untoasted pine nuts were used. I recommend toasting your nuts first, before adding, due to a condition called Pine Mouth. Pine mouth is a condition that affects your sense of taste. Eating raw pine nuts, for some people, can create a strange metallic taste which can last up to 2 weeks.
Storing Fresh Pesto
- Store – Fresh Pesto Genovese can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. The best way to keep it is in a sterilised jar.
- Freeze – You can also freeze it in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 6 months. It is best to freeze it in the portion sizes you may want to use in the future.
More Italian Inspired Recipes To Check Out!
A deliciously easy to make salad that is popular in Italy try this salad for a quick meal.
A super quick side dish, this is also known as “Broccoli Ripassati in Padella” it brings out the flavour of the broccoli and gives you a unique way to serve it up.
A Christmas treat, these biscuits are gluten-free and a perfect way to impress your guests.
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Authentic Pesto Genovese
- 50 g Fresh Basil
- 30 g Toasted Pine Nuts
- 3 Cloves of Garlic
- 50 g Parmigiano Reggiano
- 30 g Pecorino Romano
- 1 Pinch of Salt
- 150 ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice, optional
- Wash and pat dry the basil leaves.
- Roughly chop the basil leaves.
- Roughly crush the toasted pine nuts using a pestle and mortar.
- Finely Grate the cheese.
- Crush the garlic cloves using a pestle and mortar.
- Add all of the ingredients except for the extra virgin olive oil to a blender and turn on.
- Once the blender has created your desired texture from the ingredients, turn is off and stir in the extra virgin olive oil.
- You can use the pesto straight away or decant into a sterilised jar and store it in the fridge to use later.
- Be aware that fresh pesto smells different from commercial jarred pesto since it has not been subject to any processing.
- Try using roasted garlic for extra flavour.
- Blended extra virgin olive oil can produce a bitter taste be sure to stir it in afterward or use regular olive oil if you wish to blend it alongside the rest of the ingredients.
- You can use the cheese recommended or a simple parmesan.
- You can use untoasted pine nuts in this recipe, but be aware that they can create a taste deviation called Pine Mouth in some people.
- To help prevent the pesto from turning brown, add a little lemon juice or blanche the basil leaves before adding them to your recipe.