Pesto is made with basil, pine nuts and garlic. The word has its origin in the Italian word meaning pestle. Pesto literally means to pound or to crush and refers to the pounded ingredients it is made of. Pesto is traditionally made using a pestle and mortar. Pesto sauce made with different ingredients has always been a part of the Italian cuisine. Pesto is not cooked; hence care should be taken that only fresh ingredients and extra virgin olive oil are used.
Apart from the two basic recipes for pesto, there are numerous recipes that make use of sun dried tomatoes, walnuts, pine nuts, red bell peppers, parmesan cheese and ricotta cheese. Arugula (leafy greens belonging to the mustard family) is also used instead of basil in making pesto.
The two famous forms of pesto are pesto alla Genovese and pesto alla siciliana. As the name signifies, these forms of pesto are from Genoa and Sicily. The Genoese pesto recipe is accepted as the original and traditional recipe of pesto.
- Pesto alla Genovese is made with garlic, extra virgin olive oil, salt, Genoese basil and pecorino sardo cheese.
- Pesto alla siciliana is made with the same ingredients except that less basil is used and tomatoes are included in this recipe.
Pesto is a versatile recipe and can be used as a sauce to top any dish and can also be used in soups. Red color pesto is also available, tomatoes and red peppers being used in this type of pesto.
Preparing pesto is the best way to preserve basil. Pesto can be made at home or can also be bought readymade from stores. Pesto when made the traditional way, using a pestle, helps in retaining the original flavor of the ingredients used.
- Pesto is commonly used as a sauce to top any dish.
- Pesto can be tossed with cooked pasta or vegetables to enhance the taste of the dish.
- Pesto is used as a topping on bread, a thin layer of pesto on toasted French bread makes an excellent appetizer.
- Pesto is used in soups.
- Pesto is used on cooked meat or fish.
- It can be used on mashed or baked potatoes.
- Mayonnaise and pesto can be used as a spread.
- Pesto mixed with bread crumbs can be used as a stuffing.
- The main ingredient should be extra virgin olive oil.
- Commercially manufactured pesto might have refined oil instead of virgin olive oil.
- Few manufacturers replace pine nuts with nut sauce, check before you buy.
- Check on the quality of cheese that is being used.
- Few manufacturers tend to add sugar.
Basil pesto recipe
Authentic Italian pesto
Basil 1 large bunch, use only the leaves, wash and dry leaves
Raw pine nuts 1 handful
Garlic 3 cloves (medium)
Extra-virgin olive oil few tbsp
Parmesan cheese ¾ cup, freshly grated
Chop the basil leaves and garlic. Chop the pine nuts. Chop the parmesan cheese. Add a little olive oil. Refrigerate. Stir before using.
- Chop all the ingredients using a single blade mezzaluna.
- The basil tends to turn dark if not chopped with a sharp blade.
- No additional salt is added, the salt from the cheese should suffice.
Pesto pepper sauce
Basil leaves 4 oz, stalks removed and torn into pieces
Garlic 3-4 cloves, crushed
Pepper ½ tsp, ground
Salt ½ tsp
Pecorino Romano 3 tbsp
Pine nuts 2 oz
Parmesan cheese 3 tbsp
Olive oil 1 ¼ cup
Blend all ingredients except oil in food processor. Stir in oil. Serve on bread or pasta.
Home grown basil pesto
Basil 3-4 cups
Garlic 3 cloves
Extra virgin olive oil ½ cup
Parmesan cheese or pecorino ½ cup, grated
Roasted pine nuts 1/3 ½ cup
Salt to taste
Clean and dry the basil leaves. Blend the basil and nuts in a food processor. Add grated cheese and crushed garlic. Whiz until it mixes well. Add olive oil and blend again. If you want the paste to be smooth, run the processor longer. Refrigerate and use as required.
Pesto chicken n pasta salad
Pesto sauce 7 oz
Chicken breast 4
Mayonnaise ½ cup
Angel hair pasta 1 packet
Sliced and pitted olives 1 can, drained
Salt ½ tsp
Yellow pepper 1, cut in strips
Tomato 1, seeded and chopped
Onion ¼ cup, finely chopped
Combine the pesto, mayonnaise and the salt together. Toss the pasta, olives, pepper, tomato and onions along with ¾ cup of pesto mixture. Grill the chicken after brushing it with the pesto mixture. Cut the grilled chicken into strips and serve over the pasta. Serve cold or hot.
Simple chicken pesto
Pesto 2 tbsp
Boneless chicken 1 lb, chopped
Onion 1, chopped
Tomato wedges 14 oz, 1 can
Mushrooms ¼ lb
Chicken broth 1 cup
Cornstarch 1 tbsp
Brown the chopped onions and chicken. Add mushroom and tomato wedges. Add the chicken broth and pesto. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until chicken is tender. Serve chicken over your favorite dish.
Bread chicken pesto
Dry bread crumbs (fine) ½ cup
Prepared pesto 2 to 3 tablespoons
Chicken breast halves 4
Paprika 2 tsp
Bread crumbs 1 cup
Salt ½ tsp
Ground black pepper 1/8 tsp
Heat oven to 400° F. Grease a large baking pan lightly; the pan should be large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer. Wash and pat dry the chicken breasts. Pound the chicken between sheets of plastic and wrap to even thickness. In a food processor, mix the dry bread crumbs and bread crumbs along with paprika, pepper and salt l.
Rub 1-2 tsp of pesto on the chicken breast, press in the crumbs so that the chicken gets coated thoroughly. Arrange the chicken in a baking pan and bake for about 20 minutes. This chicken can be served with mashed potatoes or fries. It can also be served with salad.
Pesto n pasta
Fresh basil 2 cups, de-stemmed and washed
Pine nuts 1 cup
Parmesan cheese 1 cup, grated
Garlic 4 cloves
Ground pepper 2 tsp, grind coarsely
Extra virgin olive oil ½ cup
Salt to taste
Cooked pasta of choice
Uniformly chop the basil, pine nuts, cheese and garlic. Run the above ingredients in a processor to make a paste. Add the olive oil and stir well. Serve over hot pasta.
Conventional Italian pesto pasta
Dried trenette 1 lb
Pesto sauce 1 ½ cups
Fresh green beans ½ lb, cut into long pieces
New potatoes ½ lb, diced
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese freshly grated
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the pasta. Add the potatoes and green beans just before the pasta is done. Once the pasta is done, keep away a little cooking liquid and drain the rest from the pasta and vegetables.
Transfer the pasta and vegetables to a large bowl and toss it along with the pesto sauce. Add the cooking liquid and allow the pesto to evenly coat the pasta and vegetables. Top with parmesan cheese while serving.
Simply pesto pasta
Regular or whole wheat penne pasta 8 oz
Pesto 1 cup
Parmesan cheese ½ cup, grated
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook until done. Drain the pasta and toss with the pesto until coated completely. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.
Pesto pasta salad
Tomato pesto pasta salad
Penne pasta (uncooked) 16 oz
Pesto sauce 1 cup
Cherry tomatoes 1 cup
Fresh baby spinach 1 cup
Boconccini (small fresh mozzarella balls marinated in olive oil) 1 cup
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook until done. Toss cooked pasta with prepared pesto sauce. Cool pasta mixture. Divide the baby spinach on the serving plates. Arrange the pasta mixture on top of it. Garnish with fresh mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes
Cilantro pasta pesto salad
Any small pasta 500 gm
Garlic 2 cloves, crushed
Fresh cilantro 1 cup, washed
Olive oil ½ cup
Pine nuts ¼ cup
Black olives ½ cup, sliced
Dried oregano leaves ¼ tsp
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook until done. Drain and transfer to salad bowl. Use a blender to blend oregano, garlic, cilantro and oil. Toss the pasta with the dressing and add the nuts and olives. Season with salt and pepper and then refrigerate. Toss before serving, serve with garlic bread.
Peas n tomatoes pesto pasta salad
Uncooked spiral pasta 4 cups
Green olives 2 tbsp, chopped
Pine nuts ¼ cup
Fresh basil pesto 1 cup
Frozen peas 1 cup (defrosted)
Cherry tomatoes 12 ounces, halved
Fresh basil leaves coarsely chopped
Olive oil 1 tbsp
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook until done. Transfer pasta to a big bowl, mix the fresh basil pesto, pine nuts and green olives. Gently mix in the cherry tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, peas and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate and serve.