Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Basil Pesto

It has been one week into Ramadan. On the Almighty's grace, the past week has been really good. Though it ought to be simmering hot in August here, with temperatures soaring as high as 35°C, this year has been very different. Pleasant sunshine keeps alternating with cool showers followed by mild soothing breeze in the evenings. I don't know how long this could last, but as long as it lasts, my spirits are high are bright.

The good thing about the long days here is that, I get enough time. I mean, after returning from office, I'm finding ample time to prepare for Iftar. We didn't have busy plans for the weekend too. It was quite relaxing to be at home. As with most of you, I have a loooong list of things to be tried. One among them is to make Home-made Pesto. Last Sunday proved to be a perfect time to try that.

Basil - hmmm... the name itself smells fresh, unique and exotic. I was introduced to this excellent herb only in Germany, by the name Basilikum. I was so much attracted to this lovely smelling herb that I wanted to put my favorite Mint in the second place. Did I really wanted to? Ohh, I'm not sure myself! Anyways, I wondered why I missed Basil all these years in India. Whenever visiting a tourist place or even in my office canteen, Pasta with Basil Pesto has been my option so many times. I must confess, it saved me from starving, many a times.

Even at home, when preparing Pasta, Basil pesto remained my favourite. But, I had been using store bought Pesto sauce till now, which of course, was good too. Nevertheless, the craving to make Pesto at home lingered for a long time. So, I made it a point to buy lot of Basil leaves this weekend. I got two bunds of fresh Basil leaves from the farmer's market. You know what, the entire kitchen caught the fresh smell in the little time it was exposed to.

Making our own Pesto could be as simple as 'mix and blend'. It could also be as time consuming as preparing a party meal. The trade-off lies in how authentic and flavourful you want your end product to be. I read in several pages over the internet and was convinced, to make something close to the authentic Italian Pesto, it takes patience and commitment!!

Some suggest to chop the Basil leaves sooooo long into tiny tiny pieces, that it resembles a blended one. Some suggest to just grind the Basil leaves little by little in a mortar and pestle. So, I decided to combine the both. Here is a draft of how I prepared my Pesto.

Preparation Time: 30 to 45 mins
Serves: 4

Fresh flat leaf Basil - 2 bunds
Garlic - 2 to 3 cloves
Pine nuts - 50g
Parmesan Cheese - 150g
Extra virgin Olive oil - 150 to 200 ml
Walnuts - a few pieces
Salt and pepper - to taste

Separate the Basil leaves from the stalks. Wash and let them dry. Dry roast the pine nuts very lightly and keep ready.

Take a really sharp knife and a cutting board. Start chopping a little of the Basil leaves. Now, add a garlic piece and chop together. Add more Basil leaves and chop again. Add a few pine nuts and chop together. This way, keep chopping the Basil leaves together with garlic pieces and pine nuts little by little. You can add walnuts in-between. This might take well about 20mins, depending on your chopping talent :p

Grate the parmesan into thin strands. Now, take a mortar and pestle. Add a little of the chopped leaves and about a spoonful of cheese and grind together, just to blend them well. This would infuse the taste of Parmesan into the Basil. Do not press too much, as it might darken the pesto. Collect in a bowl. Repeat the process with the rest of the leaves.

Now, add required amount of olive oil till you get the desired consistency. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Your hand-made pesto is now ready. :)

Mix the required amount of Pesto with your favourite freshly prepared Pasta. You can store the Pesto in a fully sterilized bottle, covered with a layer of oil and keep in the refrigerator.

  • All the measurements I have given above are completely indicative. You can vary the measurements according to your requirements and taste.
  • Original Genovese Basil leaves are flat and young. You can try with any kind of Basil leaves, as per availability and the taste is said to vary accordingly.
  • I used just 2 garlic cloves of the size shown in the picture. If you do not like too much garlic, just go light on it.
  • Try combining with coriander and mint leaves too for a taste pep. Sure, they would taste even better.
  • You can add almonds, cashews too. Walnuts are again optional.
There might be reasons for you to think that this is not for you. Like, you might not have so much time to put into pesto making. Or, you might not possess a mortar and pestle, nor a sharp knife. In that case, just put all the ingredients mentioned in a food processor/blender and blend to the right consistency. Adjust oil to the right consistency. But believe me, the hand-made one is surely worth the try.

I'm sending this delicious Pesto to PJ's Herbs and Flowers: Basil guest hosted by Kaarasaaram. The easy version goes to Taste of Pearl City's Anyone can Cook Series 29.


  1. I always go for the easy version, I never did that fine chopping and those mortar, but I'm sure you might get some extra flavours in mortar than grinding it in a blender. Thank you for linking with Any One Can Cook :)

  2. hope u have a great month & continued pleasant weather - the basil pesto looks good - nice texture to the pesto !

  3. wow yummy and healthy recipe!!!!

  4. Yummy and flavor packed basil pesto..

  5. Very healthy and colorful basil pesto. Great preparation.

    Hamaree Rasoi

  6. So flavorful and btw I like your mortar. Happy to hear that the week went well for you.

  7. wow you ground the pesto by hand awesome....toady I posted a recipe too!


  8. What a great idea, nothing beats homemade food. Lovely pics! If you don't mind, may I ask your name?

  9. I always zip my pesto up in a food processor. Might have to try it your way next time though because it's absolutely gorgeous!

  10. Looks like an authentic pesto... super!

  11. pesto looks really tasty dear :) homemade is delicious!

  12. Nice cliks..The pesto looks so green & fresh & so full of flavor!!
    Prathima Rao
    Prats Corner

  13. Lovely looking pesto..Beautiful presentation...

  14. Nice post, I love pesto; and adding walnuts is a wonderful thing, I do it too.

  15. Homemade version is definitely tastier than the store bought jars ones. Your pesto looks really delish.

  16. beautiful post! Hope your Ramadan is going well, my dear :)
    Love the Basil Pesto!!! I have been seeing a number of interesting posts for Iftar
    Iftar kareem
    Hugs, Priya

  17. Yum! Your pesto looks so good. I store basil pesto frozen. We love it on chicken and pasta so I have them handy all the time. But I have one doubt with basil, everytime I buy them fresh, they turn black with 2 days and I have to throw them. Do you have suggestions on how to keep them fresh? I think I am missing out on something so they die so soon.

  18. Basil pesto looks inviting.... and nice clicks :)
    Will add to my list of must tries :)
    BTW,Happy Ramadan dear....

  19. beautiful looking pesto deliciously done

  20. Yes, the best thing about this Ramadan is that we have plenty of time to prepare the meal in the evening. So no rushed cooking :) I love your pesto shots more than the recipe, I confess. Each one gorgeous than the other!

  21. Hey!...I have a good news for you!..I remember you asking about why all the delicious recipes made with eggs....This time I made chocolate pasta without eggs....chk out my post!!


    Hope you like it!!

  22. Totally agree with you on Basil. I have a flourishing plant in my backyard too that I pay a visit to quite often. Wonderfully done especially with the pine nuts and walnuts, totally my kind of pesto.


  23. Looks yummy. I have made pesto with spinach .. have to try it with basil sometime.

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  24. @All, I'm overwhelmed by the great response here. Thank you everyone.

    @Vijitha, I'm extremely sorry for my very very late response. Even I faced problems with keeping Basil fresh. So, I usually try to consume them as early as possible to avoid wasting and throwing it. But, your query prompted me to look for answers.

    I stumbled upon this page: http://lifeonthebalcony.com/three-ways-to-preserve-basil/

    Apart from that, another way of obtaining Basil anytime fresh is to grow our own pot. Yet, there are some subtle tricks to keep the herb fresh, healthy and growing in the pot. Below are some tips:

    * After you bring your purchased Basil pot home from supermarket, immediately change it another bigger pot.
    * Have the pot in a place where there is enough sunlight, but not direct sunlight.
    * They need lot of water, sometimes as much as a glass of water per day. Monitor the need everyday and water accordingly.
    * It is better to water them always from under. That means, water only the soil, not the leaves.

    I got these tips from several german sites concerning the topic. I have not experimented them myself. So, I can't be very sure what else one must be careful of.

    Hope you find them useful. Best wishes with your Basil :)

  25. I got great information from this blog.It is very informative..
    traditional pesto