This may not always be required depending on where you source your basil. However, I like to begin by cleaning my basil leaves and patting them dry.
Step 2: Grind the ingredients
Add the garlic and salt to your mortar and use the pestle in circular motions to grind it into a thick paste-like consistency.
Add the basil leaves in increments, and make sure to grind in a circular motion around the mortar walls to break up the leaves without just smashing them into pieces. Do this until all the basil has been added.
Add the pine nuts, grinding in-between, before adding the finely grated cheese.
Add the olive oil. Do this just a little bit at a time, grinding in-between, for a silky pesto.
To make basil pesto in a food processor:
Lightly pulse the garlic, pine nuts, and basil until finely chopped (but not pureed).Slowly drizzle in olive oil as the machine runs.If your food processor doesn’t have a spout, you can simply add olive oil a little bit at a time and blend for a few seconds in-between each addition.Finally, add the cheese and pulse a few times to thoroughly combine all the ingredients.When using a food processor/blender, try not to allow the machine to run for too long and heat up the pesto, or it can negatively impact the quality of the Genovese pesto.
Other add-ins and variations:
Lemon juice: Adding a little squeeze of lemon juice is 100% optional but adds a lovely ‘brightness’ for those who love lemon. It may also help preserve the green color of the bail for longer.
Red pepper flakes: For a bit of heat, you could add a pinch (or more) of red pepper flakes to the homemade pesto.
Sun-dried tomato: I’ll often add some of my ‘sun-dried’ tomatoes when making this pesto Genovese specifically for pasta as I love the additional flavor the tomatoes provide.
To thin the pestosauce: A little splash of cold water or milk could be added if you want a thinner, creamier pesto sauce.
Dairy-free basil pesto: You could use a vegan parmesan, some nutritional yeast, or omit the cheese entirely for a dairy-free option.
Adjust the amount of garlic: As with all recipes that include garlic, the amounts come down to personal taste. I love garlic (I mean, have you seen my toum recipe?!) so feel free to adjust the amount to personal preference. I recommend adding half to begin and increasing to taste.
Where to find basil: If you aren’t growing your own, it can seem a little pricey to pick up fresh basil from the supermarket. For the most cost-effective options, I recommend buying it from farmer’s markets or purchase the basil clamshell packages from the supermarket, which are often fresher and more cost-efficient.
Using frozen basil: If you grow your own basil, you may have had times where you’ve frozen excess basil leaves. It’s perfectly fine to thaw these out and use them for basil!
When serving with pasta: I recommend saving some of the starchy pasta water to help the pesto adhere to the pasta better.
Read the blog post for more ingredient notes and answers to top FAQs.