Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Jun 6, 2007 11:06 AM

Restaurant Style Pesto

I absolutly love pesto and I eat it on everything. Everytime I eat it at a restaurant it is totally delicious. When I buy it in the store its horrible (and seriously, Ive tried every kind I have found on the market.) Its always either too nutty (and the nuts are not chopped up enough) or WAYYYY too much oil and just gross. Ya know that icky BROWN pesto?! Eew
The pesto I prefer is more green and smooth and they serve it EVERYWHERE so WHY dont they sell it in the store?!?!?!
Ok so Ive given up, Im going to stop being lazy and attempt to make my own. This may sound really lame but I NEED HELP because I really dont have a knack for cooking, ya know? Anyway, some help would be appreciated because I have no skills, and honestly, guys like girls with skills ;). Thanks!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I make my own pesto all the time in the summer with basil grown in my garden. Short of growing your own, which I highly recommend, try to buy the highest quality basil you can find. So the ingredients I use are basil (of course), pine nuts, a high quality extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt, and either grated Pecorino Romano or Parmaggiano-Reggiano cheese. I'll tell you now that I do not measure any of the ingredients, I add and taste as I go. Put a nice bunch of basil into your food processor or blender, drizzle some olive oil, add a handful of pine nuts, a handful of grated cheese a couple of pinches of salt, careful with the salt though. Turn the blender on then drizzle in more olive oil to get to the consistency you want, either like a paste or more loose like a salsa. Then just keep tasting and adding the ingredients as you go, until you get the perfect taste you are looking for. I'm sorry about not giving you exact measurements, but I cook like an Italian, we don't measure stuff!! Taste as you go. The outcome will be spectacular! Good luck!! I really recommend growing your own basil, it's insanely easy and is the best basil you can get. Even if you don't have the room or the inclination for a garden, plant some seeds in a few pots or buy a flat of basil already started at your local nursery, and it will grow in no time. When the basil gets to about 5"or 6" high, start pinching off the top leaves and keep doing that as the plants grow, it will allow the basil to grow nice and bushy. You will then be in pesto heaven! Then you can either put the excess pesto you won't be using for awhile in mason jars (top off with olive oil before screwing the lid on), and store in the freezer, or, fill and ice-cube tray with the pesto and store it that way.

    4 Replies
    1. re: MagnumWino

      Be sure to toast the pinenuts first! A slight browning really brings out the flavor.

        1. re: NeNePie

          NeNePie, my bad, see my reply to funkymonkey, below. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

        2. re: MagnumWino

          I'm known for great pesto (made it with 50 packed cups fresh basil last summer--remember my contest!).

          Genovese Basil is best (less anise flavor), garlic cloves, *roasted* pine nuts, virgin olive oil, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, bit of lemon juice. Having extra of each ingredient on hand is *imperative* for making great pesto IMO...if it tastes "too green", add more pine nuts, too bland add more Parm, etc.

        3. if you think you don't have a knack for cooking, you're going to change your mind big time once you try your own pesto. it's crazy easy and you really can't mess it up. if you put in too much salt or garlic, you can add more basil and olive oil. just taste and adjust if you think you've somehow screwed it up.

          first off, do you have a food processor or a blender? a hand blender would work as well. you can go old school and use a mortar and pestle, but that's not the kind of thing most people have hanging around.

          here's a basic recipe, but use this as a guideline. make it, taste it, and add more of whatever you think is missing. i tend to add a tablespoon or two of fresh lemon juice, because i think it adds a nice brightness. also, keep in mind that the quality of your ingredients will determine the deliciousness of your pesto: use good olive oil, parmeggiano reggiano, and fresh pine nuts (ones that have been sitting around start to smell stale).

          Toast 1/3 cup pine nuts (put them in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until they're fragrant and slightly colored. this'll just take a few minutes. keep a close on them so they don't burn)

          In blender or food processor, combine the nuts, 4 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves (from about 3 large bunches), 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup olive oil, and 1 tsp salt. Blend until it becomes a nice creamy paste. Add 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and give it another quick whiz in the blender.

          That's it! The biggest pain in the butt is pulling the leaves off the basil stems. You can go ahead and make it in large quantities and freeze it, but don't add the cheese if you do that; wait until you use it before you add the cheese.

          good luck and let us know how you fare!


          5 Replies
          1. re: funkymonkey

            Ooohhh, I knew I forgot something, the GARLIC! Thanks funkymonkey.

            1. re: MagnumWino

              no problem!

              also, i just made an interesting and refreshing variation on this, a mint pesto with toasted almonds (no cheese). it was a great sauce for lamb and i think it'll be interesting on pasta, maybe with some sugar snaps or asparagus and lemon. i think the mint experience will be my next blog post, when i have a chance.

              just wanted to let fyoulady know that she's not limited to basil, because i bet once she gets a-pesto-ing, she'll want to experiment. and there's loads of room in the food processor for experimentation.


              1. re: funkymonkey

                I grow my own basil and make my own pesto each season, too, and the only thing I would add to the comments above is that if you spoon the pesto into ice cube trays to freeze, be sure you spray the trays with vegetable spray first! The first time I made it I failed to do that and ohhhhhh, what a mess digging it out of the trays. Now they pop right out. After the cubes are frozen, I wrap them well and put them in freezer resealable bags. I keep a baby food jar in the fridge, into which I've thawed a couple of pesto *cubes* and topped with EVOO. When I run out of pesto, I just dip into the freezer for more.

                1. re: funkymonkey

                  I make a variation using cilantro and no cheese... add a little squeeze of lemon.

              2. re: funkymonkey

                I would change this just a bit to say stir in the parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons of softened butter by hand.

                The deal with pesto is that the basil turns brown when exposed to air for too long, so it is best to make it shortly before tossing wiht your cooked pasta.

              3. Well, I see that you've gotten lots of good advice from the answers to yur post. A couple of thoughts: FIRST, make sure you don't just put the entire basil bunch, stems and all, into your food processor/blender!!!!

                Second, from Marcella Hazan, a famously great Italian cookbook author, comes this advice: make the pesto in the food proc/blender, but process ONLY the basil leaves, garlic, oil, and pine nuts first. Don't put in the cheese! Whether you grate it by hand or by machine, do it separately and add to the basil garlic mix BY HAND.

                I didn't think this would make a difference, but it did. The pest was much less sticky and gummy from all that processing. It just takes a minute to add by hand, but try it, you'll like it.

                1. Another vote for making your own. It's that easy. I use a Cuisinart Mini-Prep and then add the cheese. It's worth the $25 even if you only use it for pesto. And I roughly follow Marcella Hazan's recipe, but now I don't even look at the recipe and just go by taste and eyeballing the amounts. You really can't go wrong.

                  The store bought stuff tastes horrible to me now (not sure it ever tasted good!).

                  1. Thank you all so much! THERE IS HOPE!!