Homemade Basil Pesto


When I started writing this post we were basking in sunny weather now it’s a tad cooler and damp…I’m not complaining we have had lots of sunshine in Cumbria this year. I’m planning to enjoy some summery food and this homemade basil pesto really is a taste of summer. 

It takes me back to sunny Italian holidays where beautiful food and eating together were really at the heart of family life. Here the homemade pasta itself was very important and was served with just a tiny amount of sauce rather than being flooded with sauce as is more the case here. Indeed it was often just served with oil and parmesan. The key was good quality pasta either fresh or a superior variety.  Here we can buy better quality ones such as Barilla or De Cecco made from the finest durum wheat. For some strange reason I’ve often found this in bargain shops such as Poundland, so if you see it you can stock up! 

Cook the pasta in lots of salty water in a big pan and don’t overcook it, it should be served ‘al dente’ -with a bit of bite when you test it. to You do need a lot of basil so, if you have a greenhouse,  you could make a mental note to grow your own next year.  Traditionally the pesto is made in a mortar and pestle but I am using a food processor for ease.

Give it a go and I promise that you too will be transported to sunnier climes.

Serves 2/3

50g fresh basil leaves (about 2 large ‘growing pots’ worth)

1  clove of garlic, chopped roughly

2 heaped tbsp of pine kernels (+ extra to garnish)

About 8 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

50g Pecorino Romano or Parmesan Reggiano cheese, grated finely (+ extra to garnish)*

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Knob of butter

Small tub of Crème Fraiche

To garnish a few pine kernels, fresh basil leaves and some more grated Parmesan.

*these are special, expensive cheeses so best for a special occasion, I have made it with the cheaper, supermarket hard cheeses which have been fine.

  1. Put the basil leaves, garlic, pine kernels and oil together in the bowl and blend until you have a puree. Don’t over-process as it is better quite coarse. 
  2. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the Pecorino/Parmesan cheese. Add a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Taste and add adjust.
  3. Cook the pasta (make sure that you don’t cook too much and then not have enough pesto.  Drain the pasta, add a knob of butter and serve in warmed bowls. Quickly mix the pesto with a dollop of Crème Fraiche to slacken the mixture (you can use a little of the pasta cooking water too) and top the pasta with a generous spoon full. Garnish with some pine kernels and more grated Parmesan.

This lovely sauce can be used in lots of other ways too, i.e. in jacket potatoes, on crostini or added to minestrone soup at the last minute as a whirl on top. You can also make pesto from rocket, spinach or broad beans.