Ligurian Pesto Sauce

Generally, I tend to kill everything I plant. Just ask my friend Maria. This year; however,  I've been really successful growing basil, probably because I've paid it a little more attention than usual - I've actually watered and fed the plants on a routine basis. I have basil growing everywhere in my back yard so it's a good thing that I really love it.  I love the smell of it, the taste of it - and I love a good authentic basil pesto sauce.  
Pesto is a basil sauce that comes from the city of Genova in the Ligurian region of northwest Italy. Purists only use the classic ingredients in their pesto, which are basil, garlic, pine nuts, cheese and olive oil.  Here are some tips I've learned over the years about making pesto:
  • Use a tiny leaf basil to make your pesto if you can.  The smaller leaves tend to build up the highest concentration of chlorophyll, and therefore have more intense flavor.  
  • Smaller leaves are less fibrous than bigger ones so the pesto will have a smoother texture.
  • If you are using a food processor, make sure your blade is sharp so that it will chop the basil quickly. If the blades are dull and you process it too long, the basil may become warm and it will begin to ferment and taste bitter.
  • Use a smooth tasting olive oil and very little garlic so that the oil and garlic don't overpower the basil.
  • I think it's best to use a combination of pecorino and parmesan cheese.
Makes enough sauce for 16 ounces of pasta



  • 3 cups packed basil leaves
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4  to 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup Reggiano Parmigiano
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano



Step 1: To toast your pine nuts:  Over medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a small skillet. Add pine nuts and toast until light brown. Alternatively, you can toast your pine nuts in a pre-heated 350 degree oven.
Step 2: Pulse in a food processor 1 cup of the basil leaves,  garlic and salt to combine.  My basil leaves were larger than I would have liked but I used what I had available.
Step 3:  Add and pulse remaining 2 cups basil, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup pine nuts, and both cheeses.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil if necessary to make a smooth and creamy paste. 
Step 4:  Taste pesto.  Add more pine nuts for a nuttier pesto and more Pecorino cheese if the pesto needs salt.
Step 5:  Add the pesto sauce to your favorite pasta. I like to use cappellini.



One tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice will maintain the brilliant green color of the pesto.

Thanks Gayle. I will try that.

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.