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This approach makes pesto that's less grassy and intense than raw basil versions, with rounded, balanced flavor.
It's good to use a mellow, mild olive oil here so it doesn't detract from the fresh herbs. If you don't care for the hot taste of raw garlic, you can take the edge off the cloves by blanching them along with the basil. We use sunflower seed kernels here because they are far less expensive than the pine nuts traditionally used, and their flavor is similarly rich and sweet. If you have pine nuts already on hand, feel free to use them instead.
1. Start by blanching.
Eating healthy should still be delicious.
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Giving fresh basil a quick dip in boiling water followed by an ice bath results in brilliant, emerald-green pesto that keeps its color far longer than basil that goes straight into the blender. Place the basil in a heatproof strainer then into boiling water to make the leaves easy to scoop out quickly.
2. Shock and dry.
Immediately after pulling the leaves from the pot—as soon as they become bright green—dunk them into an ice bath for 10 seconds to stop the cooking. Drain well, spread the leaves onto a clean, dry dish towel, and gently blot dry with another towel. A little water content will remain—and that's actually good for the pesto, as you'll see.
3. Blend to a puree.
Combine basil, toasted seeds or nuts, garlic, salt, and olive oil in a food processor, and blend until smooth. The small amount of residual water on the leaves from blanching will emulsify with the oil. Finally, add the cheese—it further emusifies with the water and oil to make the pesto wonderfully creamy.
4. Bask in the green glow.
The end result is noticeably bright than raw pesto, and it's made to stay that way. Blanched pesto won't brown if you add a squeeze of lemon or toss it with hot pasta. What's more, its flavor is rounder and more mellow than conventional basil pesto, which can taste a little "hot," between peppery uncooked basil and the pungent raw garlic.
View Recipe: Blanched Pesto
The Secret to Delicious Bright Green Pesto - Recipes
Bright, vibrant, and full of onion and garlic flavor, this ramp greens pesto is a delicious way to add spring flavor to pasta, pizza, chicken, and more. Ramps are only around for a short period of time and using the greens to make a pesto is the perfect way to enjoy this spring wild edible.
What are ramps? Ramps are a wild leek found in the eastern U.S. and Canada. They have bright green leaves which come up in April and have a bulb that tastes like a combination of onion and garlic. Ramps leaves last until mid to late May and then they turn yellow and are no longer good for eating.
Ramps have become very popular over the past few years. My husband's family have been collecting them on their land for many years and that is where we get some each year. We do not collect from public lands and leave many to continue to grow.
They best and most sustainable way to collect ramps is to cut the leaves only. If you take the bulb, you should cut it and leave the roots. You can find out more about ramps here and more information about sustainable harvesting here.
Once you've made your pesto, you can use it in a variety of ways, just like basil pesto. I like to use it as a pizza sauce for a cheese pizza, or a pasta sauce. I also like to stir pesto into an Alfredo sauce. It's terrific on chicken. You can thin it out with more olive oil or pasta water, too. The color and flavor just scream spring!
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Ramp Greens Pesto
- 2 cups firmly packed roughly chopped ramp greens
- 4-5 ramp bulbs (or 2 garlic cloves)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup lightly toasted walnuts
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- about 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Place the ramp greens, bulbs/garlic, lemon juice, walnuts, salt, and pepper into a food processor. Pulse until the mixture begins to get smooth. Pulse in the Parmesan.
- Turn the food processor on low and begin to slowly stream in the olive oil until the mixture is smooth and your desired consistency.
- Use on top of pizzas, as a pasta sauce, on chicken or fish, etc. Store in the refrigerator for a few days, or freeze and thaw before using.
If you find yourself with ramps, I hope you give this a try! Let me know in the comments below.
How to Make Our Easy Basil Pesto
Pesto is easy to make. Throw garlic, nuts, and fresh basil into a food processor then drizzle in olive oil until you have a sauce.
To make it best, we’re sharing a few tips learned over the years:
Tip 1: Blanch the basil. I know this sounds a little crazy, but trust me. Blanching basil makes the greenest pesto possible. Have you ever noticed that pesto browns overtime in the fridge? Or even when you add it to hot pasta? Blanching the pesto prevents this. It locks in the bright green color of the leaves. We blanch basil in our recipe below. If you are not convinced, you can still use our recipe without blanching. It still works.
If you are up for it, blanching is easy. Dunk the basil leaves into boiling water for 5 to 10 seconds then submerge in ice water. Pat the leaves dry and move on to making the pesto.
Tip 2. Turn the garlic into a paste. We love garlic but are not big fans of biting into a big chunk of it (especially if it’s raw). That’s why we turn the garlic into a paste before adding it to our pesto. To do this, mince the garlic then use the flat side of a knife to scrape the garlic across a cutting board.
Tip 3: Stir cheese in at the end. A little texture in the sauce is a good thing. We don’t add cheese to the food processor, we make the pesto and then stir in grated parmesan cheese by hand, which adds some texture.
- If you cannot find pine nuts, try walnuts instead. They are buttery and work well in pesto. You can also make pesto without nuts. The texture will be different, but the sauce stills taste fresh and delicious.
- Add more herbs. Add a handful of parsley or mint leaves to our recipe below.
- Make vegan pesto. Substitute the cheese with a non-dairy cheese or add 2 to 3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is nutty and cheesy.
- Add greens. Replacing some, if not all, of the basil with spinach, chard, or beet greens is an excellent option. We’ve even done this with kale before.
What to do with pesto?
If you’re looking for uses for pesto, you’ve come to the right place. Here are our favorite things to do with it:
- Toss it with hot pasta or add a layer to baked pasta. See our Baked Spaghetti with Pesto or Baked Ziti with Spinach and Pesto.
- Mix it into dips, other sauces, and spreads. Think about adding a spoonful to tahini sauce or even guacamole.
- Spoon it over eggs. We especially love a little added to scrambled eggs.
- Replace traditional red pizza sauce. Pesto is pretty potent, so a little goes a long way. See our Butternut Squash and Pesto Pizza Recipe.
- Spread it onto sandwiches or even in the middle of quesadillas. See our pesto chicken quesadillas recipe.
- Mix it into salad dressings. Try adding a spoonful to potato salad.
- Top or toss with vegetables instead of butter.
- Add a layer to tomato bruschetta.
- Add a spoonful to soups and stews.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: We love quick, fresh dinners. These soba noodles tossed with basil pesto hit the spot. Jump to the Pesto Shrimp Soba Noodles Recipe.
Recipe updated, originally posted August 2013. Since posting this in 2013, we have tweaked the recipe to be more clear. – Adam and Joanne
The World’s Best Basil Pesto Recipe (Yes, It Won)
You don’t have to go to Italy to enjoy the best basil pesto recipe in the world. You can eat it right in your kitchen! This recipe, from an Italian chef, won the basil pesto world championships in Italy. And now, it’s all yours. With Genovese basil, good olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and a secret technique.
Food and recipe writing is full of hyper-enthusiastic hyperbole, bluster, and puffery. You know what I mean: “Guaranteed the best, most delicious [insert food] ever!” That kind of thing. Except sometimes, it is an actual fact. Sometimes, you really do get the world’s best basil pesto recipe. The one that actually won the award in Italy, at the World Pesto Championships. And now it’s yours.
Winning the World Pesto Championship in the Liguria region of Italy — the birthplace of Genovese basil — is like winning the World Cheesesteak Contest in Philadelphia. (Which, to my knowledge, does not exist, but should.) In other words, if you win it there, you really are the world’s best. Now you can make this silky, fresh, absolutely delicious pesto at home.
A Little Background on the World’s Best Pesto Recipe
This recipe’s origin story gets a little muddled, but here are the answers. In 2008, up-and-coming (now famous, and controversial) American chef Danny Bowien worked at Farina restaurant in San Francisco. Italian chef Paolo Laboa owned Farina. Paolo made his mother’s pesto recipe in the restaurant, which Bowien entered in the pesto championships and won, under the umbrella of working at Farina. So, though Bowien was the technical winner, the recipe belongs to Laboa and his mother.
Discovering this pesto was like getting hit with a bolt of lightening, in a good way. Fast forward to today, and you will find Chef Laboa in the kitchen of unassuming, but amazing, rustic Italian restaurant Solo Italiano in Portland, Maine. I ate at Solo Italiano last summer, tasted the pesto, and needed to know more: Why is this so smooth and silky? How is it possible for pesto to taste this good? Why am I finding this in Portland, Maine and not some obscure trattoria on the northern Italian coast?
The answers lie in a combination of some cool — literally — techniques, and the use of the very, very best ingredients: the right basil, the right olive oil, and the right cheeses.
The Technique: The World’s Best Basil Pesto Recipe
A couple of interesting techniques happen here, which I have never seen before.
- First, this recipe calls for soaking the basil in cold water for 15 minutes, with several rinses. This adds weight to the leaves. The water that clings to the leaves when they go into the blender helps emulsify the pesto.
- Second, get your blender ice cold to reduce oxidation of the basil leaves. Oxidization can cause bitterness.
Chef Laboa suggests freezing the bowl of the blender. I do not have room for a big blender bowl in my freezer. Instead, I add ice cubes and water to the bowl and chill it that way until it is time to blend.
The Ingredients: The World’s Best Basil Pesto Recipe
As noted above, this recipes uses the very, very best ingredients: the right basil, the right olive oil, and the right cheeses.
- Chef Laboa uses young Genovese basil. This is the most common type of basil you see in the store. But he makes sure to use only young, bright green leaves, and not the large, tougher leaves. He says that these have a different, less delicate flavor.
That said, not everyone can source cold-pressed Ligurian olive oil and Italian pine nuts. I will say that this recipe will still taste very, very good with even regular, above-average olive oil, regular-sized basil leaves, commonly-available pine nuts (likely from China), and authentic pecorino-Toscano and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses.
The cheeses are the two ingredients you definitely cannot cut corners on.
- Do not use regular parmesan. Use the real-deal, aged Parmigiano-Reggiano. And pecorino-Toscano — don’t tell Laboa I said this — can be substituted with the more common pecorino-Romano cheese, which you may see branded as Locatelli at the store. This tastes saltier, though, so use a pinch less salt.
Sourcing the Pesto Ingredients
If you want to go for the gold and make this recipe to the exact specifications, here is where you can source the ingredients:
Pesto Ingredient Substitutions
Even the best pesto recipe can be adjusted to your taste and dietary restrictions. Here are a few ingredient substitutions for you:
Instead of Pine nuts: You can use other nuts like cashews, walnuts, almonds and pistachios.
Nut-Free Pesto: Although pine nuts are actually a seed and not a nut, some people are still intolerant to them. Use seeds like sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds. Fresh edamame can also be used.
Instead of Basil: Use fresh arugula, spinach, sorrel, carrot tops, mint, cilantro or parsley. Blanched kale can also be used.
Instead of Parmesan Cheese: Use Pecorino Romano, Asiago or any other hard cheese.
Vegan Pesto: Instead of cheese, nutritional yeast can be used. 1 to 2 tablespoons is all you need.
Toss This Delicious Sauce With Cooked Pasta For The Best Pesto Pasta Ever!
The Secret to Delicious Bright Green Pesto - Recipes
I have not used lemon in my pesto but will need to remember this trick the next time I pull out the food processor. This looks so delicious.
Thank you. Yeah, I guess I have so many lemons on hand and I always love a touch of the citrus freshness in everything. )
I'll pass the recipe along to my best friend, who loves pesto! Great idea with the lemon:)
Thanks, Jo Dee. Hope your best friend will enjoy this recipe as much as my family does. :)
Great tip! I made and froze 26 containers of basil pesto this summer for the loooooong winter ahead. I just love pesto!!
Thanks for the kind words about Lionel.
Oh wow! 26 containers! I wish my little plant produce that much basil for me to make that many pesto! :) I can never get enough pesto.
spaghetti with pesto. yummmmy :-D
I just made some pesto with lemon and with a mix of herbs too. I always thought the secret was 'pine nuts'.
Hehe. I call the lemon the secret ingredient because it's not a traditional ingredient in pesto and it helps keep the pesto really green. but well, it's not a secret anymore! hahaha. your pumpkin puree layered with pesto is gorgeous. )
Love pesto, too! I always put lemon in it. I just switch up the nuts--walnuts work just as well as pine nuts and I always have walnuts on hand. Love the idea of putting it in a jar, because I have tons of those jars and always put it in a plastic container with a lid. Duh--jars it is. I know, they both work, but I'd rather use a jar. )
Oh yeah. Can't get enough pesto. Yes, with walnut would be just as wonderful. I like to switch up the herbs too. Try it with arugula or spinach, they are both wonderful in the pesto too. :)
Acid will definitely help do that. In fact, I remember seeing Chef Michael Chiarello add a ground-up Vitamin C tablet to his pesto just for that reason. Genius!
Wow, ground up vitamin C tablet? Smart move! :) Too bad I'm really bad in taking vitamins and don't have any around the house! Guess I should go get myself a bottle on my next grocery shopping.
Niiiiice! There is just nothing like freshly made pesto!
Oh yeah. totally agree. I can put pesto in everything! hehehe.
My daughter and I are pesto lovers and we use these same recipe and same ingredients here!
Nice. I love this recipe. :) It's versatile and delicious.
I love pesto. and before going on vacation I blended a bunch of basil, but only with olive oil. I love the idea of adding some lemon juice. YUM!
Hope you are having a fantastic week Amy :)
Thanks, Juliana. You've got to try it with a bit of lemon. I'm sure you'll love it. Hope you had an amazing vacation.
Oh your pesto looks great and thanks for the tip about the lemon, it makes sense too. I love pesto too!
Glad you love pesto too. Yeah, try it with the lemon, you're going to love it.
I love pesto too..over pasta or just to dip my bread in! Looks very delicious on your pictures. Great recipe and the tips! Have a great day, Amy!
Thank you, Sandra. Glad you like the recipe. and oh my, I can put pesto in everything. Okay, maybe except desserts. LOL. Have a wonderful week, Sandra.
I love homemade pesto - but not that not-so-pretty color it starts to turn in the fridge. I'll have to give your lemon trick a try!
:) I'm sure you'll love this lemon trick. Have fun cooking.
I will DEFINITELY remember to put lemon when making pesto! I already know I'd love that version better than witout. My kids love pesto for sandwich and pasta!
Yeah, my kids loves pesto too (I'm so glad they do! phew. )
Ooh. I have never made pesto, it is on the list of "must try" items. This is the recipe to do it!
Thank you. Hope you'll like this recipe. :) Thinking about it. it's time for me to make another batch. They don't last long in my house. hehehe.
Sadly, my basil is history since we've had a couple of frosts here already. I'll keep your lovely green pesto recipe for next summer's basil :)
Sorry about your basil plant. Hope you'll get new ones when Spring comes around. Mine is still surviving because of the warm weather here. But I guess I'll have to use them all up really soon too.
Spaghetti al Pesto Genovese
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Ingredients for Four
30 g of freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
70 g of freshly grated Italian Parmigiano Cheese
Nonna’s Secret Ingredients (Shh!)
250 g of potatoes peeled and diced
Traditionally, pesto is made using mortar and pestle. However, if your kitchen lacks these tools, you can alternatively use a simple blender. Making the ultimate pesto is a very easy job!
First of all, put the blender blades in a freezer for a few minutes before putting them into use. This will prevent them from heating up too much while in use, guaranteeing that the bright green color of the basil won’t fade away easily during the preparation of the pesto sauce.
Then, place the blades in the blender and add the basil, pine nuts, Parmigiano, pecorino, and a pinch of salt. The original recipe also includes garlic, but adding it or not is a matter of personal preference.
If you are craving to taste the authentic pesto, the one with garlic, then it’s time to add it in. Just smash it with the blade of a knife and peel off the skin easily.
Operate the blender and slowly pour in a healthy extra virgin olive oil, such as the Organic Bio/Olio Timperio. The sauce that will eventually appear out of it will be our wonderful pesto, ready to season our most favorite and delicious pasta dish.
At this point, pour the water into a cooking pot and, when it comes to a boil, add in the salt and toss the pasta well to ensure it doesn’t stick. Follow the cooking instructions and time recommended on the pasta package to make sure it is cooked “al-dente” for a full immersion into the Italian dining experience.
When the pasta is done, all you have to do is drain it and toss well with the pesto that you have prepared previously.
Serve with a drizzle of flavored extra virgin oil, such as the selected Timperio truffle olive oil, and voila, our Ligurian main course is done.
Secret Pesto With Salmon
Pasta tossed with pesto (has a secret ingredient) topped with salmon.
- ½ bunches Collard Greens, About 8 Leaves
- 2 cups Packed Basil Leaves
- ¼ cups Toasted Walnuts
- ⅓ cups Parmesan Cheese
- ½ whole Lemon, Juice Only
- 1 teaspoon Salt, Plus Extra For Fish
- ½ cups Olive Oil, Plus 1 Teaspoon
- 4 cloves Garlic, Crushed Or Minced, Divided
- ¾ pounds Pasta, Any Shape
- 1 pound Salmon Fillets
- 1 pinch Coarse Gound Black Pepper
Remove tough stems from collards, and coarsely chop leaves. Using a food processor, combine collards, basil, walnuts, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and salt. Pulse for a few seconds until mixed. In a skillet or saucepan, heat about 1/4 cup olive oil with 3 crushed garlic cloves over low heat. Cook until just sizzling and bubbling. Remove from heat, and add to the pesto mixture. Pulse again, adding remaining oil until smooth. Set aside.
Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain, and put back into the pot while still HOT. Immediately stir in several large scoops of pesto (you should have a little pesto left, for spreading on a turkey sandwich or tossing in with a salad for lunch) and cover with a lid to keep warm.
In a medium-sized skillet, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil on medium heat. Take the remaining garlic clove and rub it into the flesh side of the fish with your fingers, then lightly salt and pepper the fish. Place in the skillet skin side up, and cook 3-5 minutes per side. Serve on top of pasta.
THE BESTO PESTO RECIPE
- Basil – We generally harvest a huge basket of basil, and make a large batch of pesto at once. Don’t worry – I am providing the recipe in smaller portions than we typically make, but you can scale up as needed! You’ll want to remove the leaves from the stems. Working in the kitchen, we pull the leaves off the stems and put them in a large bowl of water – to soak and get at least partially clean. Then we rinse the leaves again in a colander.
In a blender or food processor, combine the ingredients listed below, which makes about one pint of finished pesto.
For every 2 cups of basil leaves (washed, packed, and overflowing cups!) add:
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (if you prefer to say “no” to cheese, either omit it completely, substitute with 1 tbsp nutritional yeast, and/or add a handful of raw cashews or pistachios)
- 1/2 cup walnuts (sub with 1/4 cup hemp hearts for those with nut allergies)
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil*
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup lemon juice*
- 2 or 3 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Blend until smooth.
Or, pulse if you prefer chunky basil.
*Note that I included a sliding scale for the amount of olive oil and lemon juice. I generally start on the lower end, adding more while blending until the desired consistency is reached. The amount may also vary depending on how tightly you packed your cups of basil.
We often make a double batch, or more! Scale up all of the ingredients as needed. The ingredient feature photo was probably about 6x the recipe! In a 64-oz Vitamix, we can easily fill it with a double batch in one round of blending, no problemo. Then dump and repeat.
Basil pesto is a creamy sauce that belongs to the Italian culinary traditions and in particular, it originates in Genoa, the capital of Liguria’s region.
This delicious green paste is a versatile sauce good for many recipes besides the classic pasta with pesto. In fact, you can use it as a pizza topping, marinade for oven-baked fish, dressing for salads, filling for pastry pies and vegetarian lasagna. Pesto is also great for dipping or spooned in soups, couscous, and frittata 🤩 .
If you want to know how to make fresh Italian basil pesto, follow our easy step-by-step recipe. In no time you’ll have a homemade pesto cream sauce which is so much better than the store-bought one in taste, quality, and freshness.
The quality of the pesto ingredients is the secret for a perfect sauce. In fact, make sure you use only the freshest basil leaves, which should be dry and not broken. Then, the oil must be extra virgin olive oil, possibly a sweet one to balance the tangy garlic. Finally, use only well-matured parmesan and pecorino cheese and fresh pine nuts, not the roasted ones.
One of the challenges of making the perfect pesto is to keep the pesto from turning brown. This happens when the leaves are exposed to the air for too long which causes them to oxidize giving you a bitter and dark sauce.
But don’t worry! We are here to help you with these essential tips for a bright green pesto sauce:
Work the ingredients as fast as possible.
Add a pinch of coarse salt.
Use a mortar and pestle and not a food processor.
To store your basil pesto, keep it in an airtight container for up to three days or freeze it in small pots. It comes really handy to have a stock of this sauce ready for any recipe 🤙 .