Italy recipe: how to make & use Pesto

Basil & Pine Nut Pesto  (Photo from

Basil & Pine Nut Pesto
(Photo from

“Pesto” normally refers to Pesto alla Genovese, made from fresh basil and pine nuts.

It is commonly served coasting pasta and being a dish that can be prepared in advance and then served either warm or cool, it is a staple item in many an Italian fridge throughout Spring and Summer.

Whilst it can be bought from the supermarket, for the most part it is either homemade or bought fresh from a local delicatessen.

The classic Pesto recipe involves throwing around 8 handfuls of fresh basil leaves, ½ cup of pine nuts, 3 peeled cloves of garlic (or more or less to taste) and a good pinch of salt into a food processor. Start blending slowly, drizzling in extra virgin olive oil in through the little hole at the top of the blender. Stop once you have reached a slightly runny consistency. Then, add in about ½ cup of quality grated Parmesan cheese.

Stir well with a wooden or plastic spoon. Basil tends to react with metals so using wood or plastic stops the pesto from turning black. If it does turn black, the taste is still the same so it’s only really an aesthetics issue.

Store the pesto in a glass jar with a layer of olive oil over the top so it stays nice and fresh. Whilst it will be good for some months, you can also freeze it in ice cube trays for winter usage.

Pesto with pasta is a simple and delicious Italian recipe that is super easy to make. Once you have coated the pasta with pesto, you may need to add an extra drizzle of olive oil to stop the pasta drying out.

You can add in a few diced up cherry tomatoes and/or some fresh mozzarella cheese to jazz it up a little more.

In Siena, they cook some chopped tomato and then add in the pesto. The pesto ice cubes are good for this purpose.

There is also Pesto lasagna – simply take your fresh pasta sheets and line with pesto in between for a great summer lasagna recipe.

You can spread it on crostini or sandwiches. Use pesto as a dip for slices of carrots, cucumber and other summer vegetables as a starter dish.


Learn more about local food on our Italian Food Tour in Florence.

To learn to make delicious, typical Italian recipes before indulging in a delicious meal made by you, we have hands-on cooking classes in Florence and Cooking Classes in a Tuscan Villa.

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