Homemade Basil Pesto // Poor Taste Magazine

Homemade Pesto

Hello July, you sure snuck up on me this year. All the same, welcome and I hope you take your time to leave, because I’m really enjoying the fruits of your visit – flip flop and sunscreen weather, stone fruits, berries, tomatoes and bunches of lush, heady basil. I’m falling in love with this herb all over again after our first workshop of the year, back in cold, wintry February, when Denise tossed generous shreds of it in her roast chicken, avocado and cous cous salad. Amazing. Both the whiff of basil and the salad. If you ask nicely enough I’m sure she’ll share the recipe. Or you could come to one of our workshops where the salad has a permanent spot on our lunch menu. Because it’s that good.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Basil. So fragrant, it’s intoxicating. It’s the Chanel No. 5 of herbs, and thanks to M, it was one of the first herbs I started experimenting with around the time of my culinary awakening. For a long time we had it simply, shredded and tossed in a tomato, mozzarella, avocado salad, a combination that didn’t change for weeks. That’s how in love (or addicted) we were with the trifecta of basil, tomato and mozzarella.

Eventually, it occured to me to venture out the box a little and try something new, so I decided to bring lunch to work one day, featuring homemade pesto spread on toast topped with deli meat. As was customary with my recipe experiments back then, I didn’t bother consulting the Internet or cookbooks, thinking that all I needed was basil, olive oil, salt, pepper and a food processor. Well, let’s just say that the first bite into that sandwich blew all illusions to shreds. My ‘pesto’ was grassy on the palate, gloopy in texture and an unappetizing shade of green, bordering on grey.

Homemade Pesto

Thanks to the counsel of experienced Pesto-makers I quickly learned never to omit the pine nuts and grated parmesan, and add a squeeze of lemon to preserve the green. And I’ve never looked back. The fact that this comes together in just under half an hour has made homemade pesto a mainstay in our pantry. Apart from just eating it out of the jar with a spoon, I like it tossed with pasta and as a sandwich spread. What about you?

Homemade Basil Pesto

Makes about 1.5 cups

There are many variations on pesto, including substituting cilantro for basil and walnuts for pine nuts. I’m a purist when it comes to basic condiments and spreads like this, so I like it in the old-fashioned combination of basil and pine nuts. I also like my pesto thick and smooth and therefore process it to this consistency. If you’re a fan of chunky pesto, process it less. Fresh pesto can keep for up to a week in the refrigerator or frozen for up to a month or two.


  • 1½ oz/ 40g pine nuts
  • 8oz/ 200g fresh basil, leaves plucked
  • 8-10 medium garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • ½ oz/ 16g parmesan cheese, grated
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper


  1. Toast the pine nuts by placing them in a single layer in a pot over medium heat. Stir and shake the pot occasionally to evenly distribute the nuts until they start turning from beige to light brown, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. In the bowl of your food processor, add the plucked basil leaves, garlic cloves, pine nuts and lemon juice and process until your desired consistency is obtained.
  3. Tip the basil mixture into a medium bowl then add the lemon zest, and stir in the grated parmesan and olive oil in stages, letting each addition incorporate fully before adding the next.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper before using.

Homemade Pesto BLT

I wanted to share as well that the folks at Poor Taste Magazine have generously invited me to be their Featured Blogger of the Month! Head over to their site where I talk about my inspirations for Beyond the Plate, photography, food memories and homemade Nutella. Thank you Casey and team for the honor!


  1. Pesto is the sort of thing I absolutely refuse to buy from a store. It’s just SO much better made from scratch – I mean, better than ice cream from scratch vs. store bought. I love to put pesto on everything – pizza, pasta, sandwiches, even salmon. Yours looks beautiful! Happy summer!

  2. Danielle

    I hear ya – homemade is far superior and stays fresh for longer! Although we have a local grocery store that does a pretty decent version too, it’s my ‘pesto in a cinch’ backup plan 🙂

  3. I love all pesto, which to me means any seasonal greens, mixed with any seeds or nuts with a healthy dash of good olive oil and seasoning. My poor basil didn’t survive the winter here in Sydney, but I’ve made the most of the broccoli this seasons and used that to make delicious pesto. Hey, congratulations on the feature! Heading over to read the interview right now 😉 Thanks Danielle!

  4. Amazing. I’ll try that one out this week. I wouldn’t say that you must never omit pine nuts, pesto is delicious with all sorts of nuts (basil and hazelnut goes quite well). I’ve got a recipe for a wild garlic pesto on my blog, check it out, it’s quite different from the traditional thing but really tasty.

  5. I really love fresh pesto but have found that I love it even more without any nuts or cheese added to it, the way they make it in the South of FRance as pistou; also, in Lebanese cuisine, there is a pesto sauc made with pine nuts that is really fine. I admire your photos and blog and have a great time visiting.

  6. Danielle

    @Maria: Broccoli pesto sounds amazing, we have tons of Romanesco coming our way, got to bookmark the pesto idea to try.
    @Zita: Agreed!
    @Felicia: Yea, it’s really not as difficult as it seems. Only slightly more work than Nutella 😀
    @Lucie: Thank you! Yes, I guess I was being too sweeping with my statement – I’ve tried basil pesto with walnuts before but I missed the creaminess of pine nuts. Will check out your pesto recipe!
    @tasteofbeirut: Thanks for stopping by! So the first ‘pesto’ I made was an actual dish? Good to know – do you have a recipe for the Lebanese pesto you referred to?

  7. Lana

    I had SO MUCH basil that I had no idea what to do with it- found your feature on FoodGawker and decided to try it….DELICIOUS!! Next time I’ll add a tinge more garlic but otherwise it’s perfect. Totally tossing this with some whole wheat spaghetti tonight!

    • Danielle

      Just regular olive oil, it’s mild enough to complement strong flavors like basil without overpowering them. You could use Extra Virgin for this as well, just taste as you mix to get the right balance of basil and olive oil fruitiness.

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