Classic Basil Pesto

By Sally Cameron on July 14, 2012

Sauces and Condiments, the daniel plan, Vegetarian

Classic basil pesto instantly transforms ordinary dishes into something delicious and different. And it’s so versatile and easy to make it at home, You control the recipe to your taste using top quality ingredients. Try some of the ideas in my list below for how to use classic basil pesto.

Classic Basil Pesto |

Classic Basil Pesto – A Fresh, Uncooked Sauce

Traditionally from Genoa, Italy, pesto is a fresh uncooked sauce or paste made with fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, olive oil, grated cheese and garlic. I add a little fresh lemon juice to mine.

Historically pesto was made in a mortar and pestle. I prefer the power of my food processor to make it easily and quickly. Make it chunky or smooth. It’s up to you.

What to Do With Classic Basil Pesto

  • Stir a couple of generous tablespoons into mashed potatoes for pesto mashed potatoes
  • Toss pesto with roasted red potatoes when they are hot out of the oven
  • Transform a simple turkey  sandwich into something special with pesto instead of mayo and mustard, then grill it on a Panini maker for a pesto Panini
  • Make pesto-mayonnaise by combining pest and a little mayo (Veganiase is the best!)
  • Add to portobello mushrooms as an appetizer or meatless main dish
  • Garnish soup, like the classic tomato soup recipe
  • Mix with sour cream or plain Greek yogurt as a dip for raw vegetables (crudités)
  • Stir it into risotto for a rich, vibrant green Pesto Risotto
  • Thin pesto down with a little half and half or milk, warm it up and made a sauce for fresh broiled swordfish or salmon
  • Toss with cooked, chilled rotini (corkscrew) pasta, add tomatoes if desired for a quick, cool pasta salad
  • Put a few dollops on a platter of sliced tomatoes and mozzarella drizzled with good Balsamic vinegar and olive oil for an Italian Caprese-style salad
  • Add a little to a vinaigrette for a pesto dressing for tossed green salad or roasted or grilled vegetables
  • Garnish deviled eggs
  • Thin the pesto with milk or half and half, warm,  and make a sauce for grilled or roast fish, like halibut or salmon

But the dish that’s a “go-to” when I’ve got a hungry husband in need of a fast dinner is pasta with pesto and chicken. It’s one of his all-time favorites. Just follow the link for my recipe. For a twist on pesto, try this sun-dried tomato basil version. It’s terrific!

Classic Basil Pesto

Classic basil pesto is delicious and versatile. Toss with pasta, use with chicken or fish, thin with milk to make a sauce, or spread on a sandwich. If you don’t like pine nuts, try walnuts instead or a combination of the two. When buying pine nuts look for American, Italian or Spanish pine nuts to avoid a possible metallic taste which can happen with cheap imports. A note on herbs, to vary the flavor you can also mix in fresh oregano and parsley or try it with other green herbs like cilantro.


  • 2 large garlic cloves peeled
  • 8 ounces fresh basil leaves, thick stems discarded about 4 cups of tightly packed leaves, washed and stemmed
  • 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or walnuts if you don’t like pine nuts, American or Italian
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


  • In a food processor fitted with a steel chopping blade, drop the peeled garlic cloves through the feed tube while its running to mince the garlic. Alternatively use a garlic press for finely minced garlic. Add basil leaves, oil, cheese, pine nuts, lemon juice, salt and pepper to the food processor and process until fairly smooth. You can control the texture by how long you pulse. If it’s too thick for your tastes, thin with a little water, more olive oil, or a combination of the two. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if you desire.
  • Using a flexible spatula scrape your fresh pesto into a container with a tightly fitting lid. It will last for about a week in the refrigerator.
No Comments
  1. Rebecca - July 15th, 2012

    Wow, look at all of those ideas to use this gorgeous pesto! Can’t wait to try it on roasted red potatoes!

  2. Shut Up & Cook - July 15th, 2012

    Two questions…how many cups does 8 oz equate to and do you think Asian Basil would work or would the purple in the leaf make it look ugly?

  3. Sally - July 15th, 2012

    Hi Erina. Will have to figure the cups vs ounces when I make it, probably this afternoon. Will let you know. I did ounces because it will depend on how tightly you stuff the cups. I think the purple in the leaf could muddy the color and make it not as attractive. Might taste good though.

  4. sally - July 17th, 2012

    Erina, it’s 4 cups of tightly packed leaves, no stems. Making some tonight for a shrimp dish! Cuts in half easily for a half batch. 4 ounces = 2 cups packed.

  5. Ann Mah - July 16th, 2012

    Pesto is one of my favorite leftovers and you’ve given me so many new ideas. I also love to stir it into vegetable soup (like minestrone) — it’s so refreshing in the summer.

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