Fresh basil varies from week to week and from batch to batch. Sometimes, ironically enough, hothouse basil is sweeter than field basil. In very hot weather, basil grown outdoors can be bitter and metallic in flavor. Taste a leaf before you buy it. You don’t want to put up a big batch of pesto with inferior basil.


  • 2 cups (tightly packed) basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts, toasted
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup mild olive oil
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Place all the ingredients except the olive oil and cheese in a food processor or blender and process until combined. If you are adding cheese later, use just ½ teaspoon salt and season to taste after the cheese is added. Add about half the oil and quickly puree, then add the remaining oil and process to a thick puree. Don’t overprocess the pesto; you should be able to see tiny pieces of basil rather than a green homogenous paste. To store the pesto, pour it into a jar and film the top with a little olive oil to keep its bright green color. The pesto will keep this way in the refrigerator for weeks. If you want to freeze it, you might be better off just processing the basil with the oil and adding the seasonings when you use it.

If the pesto will be used immediately for pasta, add the cheese and process until blended.