Friday, July 11, 2014

Greek Cooking 101 - Basil Pesto


My garden runneth over with basil right now, so, out comes the Cuisinart to make basil pesto!  Here's what Wikipedia says about the origin of it:

The ancient Romans ate a paste called moretum, which was made by crushing cheese, garlic and herbs together.[1] Basil, the main ingredient of modern pesto, likely originated in India and was first domesticated there. [4] Basil took the firmest root in the regions of Liguria, Italy and Provence, France. The Ligurians around Genoa took the dish and adapted it, using a combination of basil, crushed garlic, grated hard cheese (a mix of parmigiano-reggiano and pecorino or just one of the two), and pine nuts with a little olive oil to form pesto. The first mention of recipe for pesto as it is known today, is from the book La Cuciniera Genovese written in 1863 by Giovanni Battista Ratto.[1] In French Provence, the dish evolved into the modern pistou, a combination of basil, parsley, crushed garlic, and grated cheese (optional). Pine nuts are not included.

In 1944, The New York Times mentioned an imported canned pesto paste. In 1946, Sunset magazine published a pesto recipe by Angelo Pellegrini. Pesto did not become popular in North America until the 1980s and 1990s.[5]

Greeks, too, use lots of basil and we typically don't plant anything in our gardens unless is provides something in return.  Herbs, trees like olive, lemon, cherry, pistachio and berry.  

I happen to have this recipe written out as it is from my very good friend Doris.  She pasted away last year and broke our hearts.  Doris was a wonderful neighbor and friend.
She was the Food Editor at Better Homes and Gardens for years and if you look in old cookbooks published by BH&G, you will see her name.
She taught me so much about food and being a good friend.  
I think of her every time I make this.

 Here we go:

1 cup firmly packed sipped fresh basil
1/2 cup snipped parsley
1/2 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese (2 ounces)
1/4 cup pine nuts, walnuts or almonds
1 or 2 cloves garlic, quartered
1/3 cup olive oil

Place basil, parsley, cheese, nuts, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt in blender container or food processor bowl.  Cover and blend with several on/off turns until paste forms.

With machine running slowly, gradually add oil and blend till consistency of soft butter.  Refrigerate or freeze till used.  Thaw pesto, if frozen.  Toss with hot cooked and buttered pasta.

That's it!

After I rinse my basil in the kitchen sink, I give it a spin in my salad spinner.  

I also use my spinner to remove all the water from freshly washed hand knit socks!

The recipe is only for a small amount of pesto, so I triple the recipe, put in jam jars, top with a little layer of olive oil to keep it fresh and from turning brown.
We use it so often, I just keep it in the fridge.  I have also put dollops in ice cube trays to freeze them.  I pop them in soups and home made spaghetti sauce.  I also use it as a spread on sandwiches.

So save those jam and jelly jars, or use small mason jars!  Make loads of pesto and hand them out as hostess gifts, birthday gifts or teacher gifts.   Your foodie friend will love one!


Food tip:
I buy the giant cans of tomato paste at the grocery store and drop spoonfuls into ice cube trays and pop them in the freezer.  When they harden, I store them in freezer bags and take them out as I need them.


  1. How long would this last once it's jarred? Could I make a batch and keep it in the fridge for when I needed it?

    1. Kate, absolutely! If you keep it refrigerated it lasts for a very long time. After every use, I pour on a thin layer of olive oil to keep it green.

      I use it tossed with warm pasta. I drop a dollop in home made soups, like minestrone, or tomato. I also spread it on sandwiches instead of mayonnaise.

      I just made another batch and froze dollops in ice cube trays overnight. Next morning, I popped them in a zip lock bag and back in the freezer for future use.


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