Tips and suggestions for a perfect pesto

Pesto is typically made using five ingredients, fresh herbs, nuts, garlic, cheese and oil, but you can experiment by using variations of your choice. I love this recipe! The color is just beautiful and the flavor is incredible! Our friend Taylor loves pesto and I found myself making this over the years for him when we lived in Asheville, North Carolina. When my herb garden is full and fragrant I love making different types of pesto. My favorite herb to use in pesto besides basil is cilantro.

Tips for the perfect pesto

Toasting the nuts beforehand adds an incredible depth of flavor!

Hand chop your herbs. Avoid using a blender or food processor when you can. It makes a tremendous difference. If you’ve ever tasted a true Italian pesto it is completely different than the pesto made in America. Italians usually hand chop their herbs and ingredients. Be sure to use a very sharp blade or your leaves will quickly turn black.

Use the small baby leaves of the basil plant. They not only taste better, but will promote growth.

Do not refrigerate your pesto for more than 2 to 3 days.

I freeze pesto, too. Great for those cold months when you can’t grow herbs, spoon just a little into small plastic containers, and put them in the freezer overnight. When hard, usually the next day, snap them out and put inside a freezer bag. This takes up hardly any room at all, and you have pesto at the ready. You can also do this with ice cube trays, but it is difficult to prevent your freezer from smelling like garlic and herbs!

Nut allergy
If you’re like our family, someone in your household is allergic to nuts. I simply omit the nuts for Alexander’s portion or we all just eat it without. It is delicious with or without nuts!

Elise’s Pesto

My son Nate loves this recipe so much that he uses his bread to mop up the pesto leaving his plate clean as a whistle!

Large bunch of fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
1/2 c. parsley sprigs and or fresh spinach torn
1/4 c. toasted pine nuts, walnuts, or almonds, optional
2 large cloves garlic
3/4 to 1 c. FRESHLY grated Parmesan cheese
Zest of 1 lemon (sometimes, when in the mood, I add a little fresh lemon juice, too)
A few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

Begin by chopping the garlic along with about 1/2 of the basil leaves by hand with a sharp knife. Once this is loosely chopped add the rest of the basil and chop into a fine mince. If using nuts, add about half of the pine nuts and chop. Add the rest and chop. Add the Parmesan cheese and chop. Your mixture should be fine enough that it can be pressed together. Place your pesto into a small bowl and cover with a bit of olive oil, it doesn’t take much, just a few tablespoons.

You can set this aside or place it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. Just before serving give the pesto a quick stir to incorporate some of the oil into the basil. You can also thin the pesto with a splash of pasta water for more coverage.

This recipe makes about 1 cup.

Some ways to use pesto would be on any type of pasta, chicken, fish, turkey, steaks, vegetables, potatoes, pizza, bread, dips, salads, soups and a variety of other dishes, or my favorite way, over potato gnocchi!


Try using herbs like cilantro and substituting a hard Mexican cheese like cotija, which can be easily shredded.

Arugala, Italian parsley with Romano cheese is another variation.

I also love to use spinach in my recipe with basil. it’s full of vitamins and helpful if you don’t have a lot of basil.