HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Do you create unique foods? Tell us about it

Basil Pesto in bulk

e_bone Aug 12, 2008 02:33 PM

I have a mountain of basil and I'd like to make copious amounts of pesto. I usually eyeball quantities but with this much (I literally have nearly a pillowcase full) I'm looking for a recipe based on weight and not "cups"/ "bunches", etc...

Does anyone have a commercial recipe?


  1. m
    morwen Aug 17, 2008 06:24 PM

    I did a bulk pesto today and kept track of what I did for the first time. I had (by volume, not weight):
    3 quarts of basil leaves (no stems)
    1 1/2 heads of roasted garlic
    1 cup of toasted pine nuts
    2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
    1 cup shredded parmesan
    Olive oil as needed (roughly 1 1/2 cups)

    I did it in 2 batches in the food processor because A) it was too much for one batch and B) although it's not the classic, traditional way of making pesto, there's no way I'm gonna sit there with a pestle and do it all by hand (ain't gonna happen).

    Loaded the processor to the top with leaves. Added half of each of the above ingredients except for the olive oil. Pulsed until ingredients where chopped, then turned it on full and added half of the olive oil in a steady stream. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

    Repeat with the rest of the ingredients.

    Combine batches. I don't add salt until after I'm done and taste for adjustments because the parm often adds enough salt flavor on it's own.

    1. o
      OldTimer Aug 16, 2008 10:14 AM

      A pillowcase of basil will just about fill a large food processor.

      1. e_bone Aug 16, 2008 09:16 AM

        I'm bumping this (not sure that's okay in the etiquette dept) to see if someone can answer original question per weight.

        3 Replies
        1. re: e_bone
          e_bone Aug 17, 2008 01:53 PM

          Okay- I foolishly failed to take advantage of resources right under my nose. I consulted Peterson's book "Sauces" (he's just short of being the Messiah in cookery IMO) and he had a commercial-style recipe that yields roughly a quart. He also is adamant that olive oil (especially green olive oils) and blenders / food processors are not a good combination. Philosophy being that the violent action of the blades breaks down vegetable compounds yielding bitter results. I agree tentatively from perceived experience but am not convinced without doing a real comparative study.

          Okay- on to the recipe:

          Basil Leaves 1lb or 500gms
          garlic cloves 5
          toasted pine nuts 3 tbls 45gms
          course salt 1 tbls 15gms
          parmesan 8oz 250gms
          ev olive oil 1 cup 250 millileters

          make sure basil is dry, blend all ingredients except oil.
          work in oo post facto with a pestle or wooden spoon

          I haven't made it yet- and boy that looks like a lot of cheese!

          pesto=expensive ... but it's luxurious stuff, isn't it?

          1. re: e_bone
            jen kalb Aug 18, 2008 01:50 PM

            I simply dont think this will blend in a blender without a liquid (the oil)
            even chopping in the food processor is a problem getting the correct consistency.

            I like mortar pesto the best, but we have never found a problem with olive oil in the blender/processor.

            1. re: e_bone
              Karl S Aug 18, 2008 05:19 PM

              Peterson is indeed a very reliable resource on technique. I would only caution that the basil that most Americans use is often so harsh that I bet it tends to obscure any changes in the flavorings of the oil. (I am happy with my variegated basil that does not bloom, and thus has a somewhat gentler flavor, though not as refined as Ligurian basil seems to be.) Also, the palates of many Americans are much more attuned to bold and coarse flavors rather than subtle flavors, so I suspect Peterson's insights will not resonate with many of our palates (even mine - I make no pretense to having a particularly subtle palate, despite supertaster burdens).

              Anyway, this month is the 10th anniversary of the insightful Corby Kummer piece on pesto by hand, and now that the Atlantic Monthly has removed the old firewall, it's again available for public consultation:


          2. jen kalb Aug 14, 2008 07:31 AM

            Heres the method I usually use for making pesto, the small recipe first then the bulk method for the food processor or blender.(credit to Ed Giobbi and marcella H)

            Recipe to serve 6:
            for making the paste:
            2 cups fresh basil leaves (no stems or flowers or little top stem leaves- when basil blooms, it gets bitter), gently packed.
            handful of parsley leaves (to accentuate green color)
            2 tbsp pine nuts
            2 cloves garlic. peeled and cut roughly
            1/2 cup olive oil

            for adding when the dish is assembled:
            1/2 c freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano or grana padano cheese
            2 tbsp freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
            salt to taste

            Put the garlic cloves in the blender or food processer and chop, then add the basil and parsley, pine nuts on top (weigh it down) start the motor, and add oil blending gradually until a paste forms and all the leaves are smoothly incorporated - it will still be grainy looking but no big pieces of anything.. You may need to scrape down the sides a bit before this happens.

            When you are ready for use, stir in the cheeses and salt to taste - some butter or ricotta can be added if liked.
            The pesto can be served with dry or fresh pasta, and is particularly good when some thinly sliced potatoes and frenched green beans are added to the pasta while cooking.

            Bulk method: I usually make this in bulk without measuring the leaves - first put into blender or processor 4-6 cloves of garlic, chop, then stuff the machine full of basil leaves, add a large handful of the parsley and a cpl handfuls of the pine nuts and start the motor. Add oil slowly - as much as needed until it amalgamates into a nice paste

            Storage - The usual way to prevent oxidation (blackening) and spoilage is to cover the finished pesto with olive oil.I usually pack the pesto into small plastic freezer boxes - after it is solidified sufficiently, I add a thin layer of olive oil. Recently I have covered the top before freezing with plastic wrap which I remove to add the olive oil. We just cut slices off these cubes to use. You can also store in refrig, with a good covering of olive oil, but you have to make sure that the jar is clean and that the pesto is recovered with oil after use- pesto smeared down the side of the jar will cause spoilage and oxidation.

            1. m
              morwen Aug 13, 2008 09:59 PM

              I too have copious amounts of basil coming in. I don't have a recipe but what I do is:
              Fill my processor nearly to the top with leaves
              Throw in several roasted garlic cloves
              Throw in a handful of toasted pine nuts
              Throw in a handful of rough shredded parmesan or romano
              Add several generous grinds of black pepper
              Put on the lid
              Pulse several times
              Turn on full speed and add olive oil in a steady stream until I see the pesto begin to take on a paste texture
              Stop processor and remove lid to check texture and taste for seasonings
              Adjust seasonings if necessary
              Place lid back on and whiz to mix in adjustments and add more oil if necessary.
              Add salt only at the end if needed. I find the cheese provides enough salt on its own
              Repeat as needed (both tastings and batches until leaves are used up)

              I then freeze it in small plastic (4 oz) snack containers. I'm not into the ice cube method, I prefer the containers because they stack nicely in the freezer and an ice cube or two is just not enough pesto for us. Never have had a problem with freezing it with pine nuts and cheese already mixed in.

              5 Replies
              1. re: morwen
                BiscuitBoy Aug 14, 2008 06:54 AM

                Do you have any tricks to keep it from getting black? I would love to able freeze a little taste of summer

                1. re: BiscuitBoy
                  gsshark Aug 14, 2008 10:35 AM

                  Blanching the leaves, then shocking in an ice bath keeps the pesto from discoloring. I didn't believe this when I heard it, but it works, now I do it every time I make pesto.

                  I, too, have been making and freezing pesto for years, and just make my recipe, including all cheese, nuts, etc. and freeze with a thin layer of oil added to the top (which gets discarded upon use), and have never had a problem with off flavors. Maybe it's because I use canning jars.

                  1. re: gsshark
                    jen kalb Aug 14, 2008 11:43 AM

                    I used to do the blanching and shocking when I first started making pesto - Im not persuaded its worth it and with piles and piles of basil waiting, as is usually the case, I omit it these days.

                    1. re: jen kalb
                      BiscuitBoy Aug 14, 2008 12:55 PM

                      Thanks jen, thanks shark for the tips!

                    2. re: gsshark
                      hondo77 Aug 14, 2008 04:25 PM

                      I do the blanching but not the shocking. Seems to work without it.

                2. scuzzo Aug 12, 2008 03:07 PM

                  No recipe, but I would just use as much oil as needed to get the right consistency. But most importantly, if you're going to freeze, it's best to leave out the pine nuts, as they don't freeze well. In the past I've frozen pesto in ice cube trays, then saved in a Ziploc. NIce for portioning out.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: scuzzo
                    rockycat Aug 12, 2008 06:24 PM

                    I've been freezing homemade pesto for years and I always add the pinenuts. Never had a problem with it. I do leave out the cheese, though, and add that after I've defrosted the pesto cubes.

                    I use the CI pesto recipe minus the parsley. It measures in cups but I find that I can only fit 2 recipes worth into my 11 cup processor anyhow. Yes, it's a pain to measure 4 cups of basil but I can't imagine it would be any more fun to weigh it out.

                    1. re: scuzzo
                      hondo77 Aug 13, 2008 04:06 PM

                      Huh? I store my pine nuts in the freezer and they seem just fine.

                      1. re: hondo77
                        Karl S Aug 17, 2008 02:24 PM

                        It's the cheese that should be omitted.

                        And, when using in a dish, be sure to thin with a touch of the the starchy pasta cooking water and you can do the very local Italian thing of adding butter at the last minute. Be sure to serve on warmed plates or it loses a lot.

                    Show Hidden Posts