Go Back

How to Make Pesto Genovese

How to Make Pesto Genovese
Prep Time20 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: pesto
Servings: 6 fl.oz. pistou /10 fl.oz. pesto


  • 4 oz wt. fresh basil about 4 cups of leaves
  • 1/2 oz garlic cloves about 4-5 each
  • 4 floz extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts*
  • kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste


  • Pull the basil leaves off the stems. Discard stems.
  • Place the leaves and the cloves of garlic in a food processor and pulse 15-20 times to chop up the leaves and garlic.
  • With the processor running, slowly stream in about half of the olive oil and stop. Remove the top and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. Repeat with the rest of the olive oil.
  • At this point you have made pistou. This is where I usually stop. I'll add the salt and pepper here and then freeze what I've made in small glass jars. If I want to make pasta al pesto, I'll add the cheese and pine nuts later. If you want to add the pine nuts and cheese, do not add the salt and pepper yet and keep reading below.

To include pine nuts and Parmesan cheese:

  • Add in the pine nuts and pulse the processor 15-20 times to incorporate them. Remove the lid, scrape down the sides of the bowl and check the consistency. Pulse another 10 times if you need to chop the nuts more.
  • Add the cheese, pulse 5-10 times to incorporate. Taste the pesto before adding salt and pepper because the cheese can make it taste saltier than expected.

To use on pasta:

  • Cook the pasta until done. In a separate pan, warm some of the pesto (a few tablespoons of pesto per serving of pasta) and add the cooked pasta. A tablespoon of butter makes the sauce a bit creamier, or add a splash of the water the pasta was cooked in to help loosen the sauce. Add the pasta to the sauce, toss and enjoy.

To refrigerate or freeze:

  • Please the pesto in clean glass jars or plastic containers. Leave about 1/2" of space from the top of the container. Top with 1/4" of olive oil. The oil will form a seal on top when it gets cold and solidifies. This will help prevent the sauce from molding in the refrigerator and prevent freezer burn. The sauce will keep a week or so in the refrigerator and a couple of months in the freezer.


*If you are going to use pine nuts, make sure you use a high quality nut, either from the US or Italy. Try to avoid nuts from China or Russia as these have been linked to a (usually temporary) condition called "pine mouth" which causes everything to taste metallic.