in praise of pesto

go straight to the recipe

Perhaps one of the biggest difficulties with making pesto is that basil itself comes in almost as many different varieties as mints.  They can be extremely peppery, sharp and bitter, have tiny leaves, big soft leaves which are lustrous dark green to the deep dark purple of the Thai sacred basil; and as if that isn’t confusing enough the size of bunches vary from grower to grower, shop to shop. The best basil is soil grown in full sun and for us hydroponic basil just does not cut it under any circumstances.

Without a doubt, the best basil is made in a wooden mortar and pestle reserved only for that purpose.  This of course is unrealistic in a commercial operation. we always use our food processor and to no like the texture we get with our Thermomix.

Basil for pesto that is picked and processed within a few hours, is of course, the best.  Basil is the companion plant for tomatoes, thought to keep them disease free and healthy, but it will grow extremely well in pots provided they are generously watered, a handy and good-looking plant that enjoys hot sunny positions.  Once you start to pluck the basil leaves, you must be prepared to finish the pesto, as the leaves once macerated will blacken with air exposure.

This is the explanation for the thin film of oil or contact cover on top of pesto.  In a commercial kitchen cryovaccing is an excellent way of keeping the pesto.  One can cut a small tip of the back and at the end of the night scraped back upon itself, the tip cleaned and re-sealed it works extremely well.

Weighing the basil was our first step to making consistently good pesto, and we always use the commonly available soft, and medium leaf European basil.  Soil grown basil has a superior flavour and can be found at most farmers’ markets in season.


makes approximately 700g but remember this to going to last you until the next basil season

The recipe can either be halved or you’ll have plenty for other purposes

250g pine nuts – dry roasted in the oven at 160°C until golden
200g Reggiano parmesan – rindless weight, finely grated
300g basil leaves – approximately 3 large bunches, washed and very gently dried off without damaging them too much
40g peeled weight garlic – germ removed if starting to shoot
10g Malden sea salt + extra if required when tasted
5g freshly ground black pepper
75 – 100g EVO or more if you like it runnier


Methode traditional – wooden mortar and pestle
Macerate the garlic with the salt until it is a paste, then add some of the basil leaves and pound and macerate them, adding more leaves until all have been pounded to a paste, then pound in the nuts and finally add the cheese.  While you are still pounding, get someone to drip the oil into the pesto until you have the desired consistency. 

You can cover the pesto with a thin layer of oil, but we prefer to contact cover. Always remember to scrape the sides down and recover each time that you take some pesto.

Food processor
Macerate the garlic with the salt until it is a paste and then scrape it into a food processor. Add about half of the basil leaves, pine nuts and cheese and process until fine. Add the remaining pine nuts and cheese and process until fine; then with the motor running feed the remaining basil leaves down the feed tube, stopping a couple of times to scrape the sides down. Add the oil and mix by your preferred method.


how to look after pesto

to maintain
gorgeous green