Pesto remains among the most popular of Italian sauces, its rich, pungent flavour belying the simplicity of its composition. Given its simplicity why to we waste so much on jars of the stuff when we can scrape together some parmesan cheese, pine-nuts, good olive oil, basil and garlic. Now you might not fancy producing your own parmesan or pressing your own olive oil, but you can certainly have a crack at making a delicious homemade pesto. And come spring you can start growing your basil and garlic for a even fresher homegrown sauce.
Basil is relatively easy to grow, but do remember that it won’t stand up to frost. Sow it under glass in March and plant out in June in a sunny position. The plants should be spaced nine to twelve inches apart. Pinching out the tips regularly will ensure that your plants are bushy with lots of wonderfully aromatic leaves. Simply pick the leaves as you need them.
You will need to buy a whole head of garlic, which should then be separated into individual cloves. During early spring plant the cloves about six to eight inches apart in a sunny, well-drained position and ensure that they are kept watered during dry spells. When the plants turn a yellowish colour in August the bulbs can be pulled up and left to dry indoors.
Although the ingredients for homemade pesto are pretty standard, you can have fun experimenting with quantities to come up with your own personal flavour. Here’s one suggestion:-
- 4 cups basil leaves
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup pine nuts
- 11/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 11/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Perfect homemade pesto method
Put the basil leaves and garlic in a food processor or blender until the leaves are finely chopped. Add the nuts until they are also are finely chopped. Add cheese and blend the ingredients until combined. Add the olive oil very slowly and steadily while the mixture is still blending. Finally, season with salt and freshly ground pepper according to taste.
You can keep homemade pesto in the fridge for about a week in an airtight container. A very thin layer of olive oil on top will prevent the pesto from discolouration. Last but not least, make sure you have a good bottle of chianti on hand to enjoy with your pasta.
If you liked this recipe, you’ll find plenty more on our food & drink channel. Or, if you have a twist on the pesto recipe to share in the comments below.Tags: basil, olive oil, pesto, pine nuts Last modified: December 1, 2022