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Homemade Pesto with Basil and Pine Nuts

Homemade Pesto with Basil and Pine Nuts

Pesto is a recipe that has all of my favorite ingredients: cheese, basil, pine nuts, olive oil — yum. I never made pesto before. First, because pine nuts are expensive. The second reason, is that I never had a food processor or mortar and pestle.

But, as you might have seen in my last post I recently bought a new mortar and pestle. One of the first recipes you can make with a mortar and pestle (besides guac), is pesto.

The History of Pesto

As an Italian, you know I have to provide some context to the history of pesto.

According to my research, pesto dates back to the 16th century, originating in Genoa, which is in Northern Italy. The name “pesto” comes from the Genoese verb pestâ, which means to pound or to crush.

Green pesto made with fresh basil is the most popular and well-known pesto, though there are variations of red pesto made with sun-dried tomatoes or peppers. Most people put pesto on pasta, though you can also use it as dressings, spreads, and dips.

Ingredients for Homemade Pesto with Basil and Pine Nuts

Homemade Pesto with Basil and Pine Nuts_Ingredients_ K.Martinelli Blog_Kristen Martinelli.png

Pesto is all about quality ingredients. Make sure to use good quality olive oil (the kind you would dip bread in), fresh cheese (and shred it yourself), and fresh basil. This will impact the flavor and final quality of your pesto.

To make this dish, I had to purchase pine nuts — which I don’t have on hand because they’re so pricey. I bought a 3-oz glass jar for $5. If you plan on doubling this recipe, buy a bigger bag of pine nuts. My 3-oz jar was nearly used for this portion size.

Also note, that the time of year can influence the flavor of your basil. I bought a beautiful bundle with giant leaves from my local market. Except by the end of the dish, I didn’t feel that the basil had a ton of flavor — which is unusual, considering you can eat basil leaves on their own. This is just a note to keep in mind.

Homemade Pesto Instructions

Homemade Pesto with Basil and Pine Nuts_Instructions _ K.Martinelli Blog_Kristen Martinelli.png

You can make this recipe in a food processor as well. I wanted to make this recipe specifically with my new mortar and pestle. Interestingly enough, it’s debated that the act of pulverizing the ingredients together vs slicing them in a processor, can produce a better flavor.

The Final Product

The Flavor

I taste-test as I cook, to make sure recipes are as they should be.

When I tried a spoonful of the basil, garlic, and pine nuts, I was worried. As I mentioned before, my basil didn’t have as noticeable of flavor as I was used to.

It wasn’t until after I added the olive oil that I thought: Oh — yeah this is going to be good. I bought the block of Pecorino Romano cheese from my local market. It was to die for — I could eat the block like an apple.

Mixing in the cheese made a difference in the flavor as well. The final product was garlicky (put one tiny clove if you’re not a fan of garlic), creamy (from the cheese), and light.

The Texture

It took me a while of grinding to pulverize the ingredients into the proper consistency. I half-wondered if a coarse chop of the garlic before adding it to the mortar would be helpful (but I guess that would defeat the purpose of using the mortar and pestle in the first place?).

In the end, the pine nuts and basil broke down as expected for pesto-consistency. The garlic was more work, and I spent most of my time chasing the cloves around my mortar and trying to grind them into a paste.

Overall, I love the way this recipe turned out and I would make it again. I would also recommend doubling the recipe, as I used most of it in one sitting, for 4 people.

Homemade Pesto with Basil and Pine Nuts _ K.Martinelli Blog _ Kristen Martinelli (1).png

K. Martinelli Makes Homemade Pesto with Basil and Pine Nuts

Thanks for Watching!

Are you ready to use your homemade pesto in a new recipe? Try this appetizer: Caprese Crostini with Homemade Pesto. Click here to watch the video.

Caprese Crostini with Homemade Pesto

Caprese Crostini with Homemade Pesto

How to Season a New Mortar and Pestle

How to Season a New Mortar and Pestle