How to Make Pesto
Spinach, Walnut & Cheddar Pesto

Written by chanie on May 14th, 2012

With Shavuous just two weeks away, I thought it would be a good idea to do a little tutorial on making pesto. I’m sure most of you have either tasted it or have at least seen it on a restaurant menu. The popular green sauce is traditionally made from a mixture of basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan cheese, and olive oil. Pesto is surprisingly easy to prepare, as well as delicious and versatile. It can be used as a sauce for fish and pasta or as a spread over crackers and bread. It makes the perfect addition to your Shavuous menu.

Because pesto is a sauce made from raw ingredients, it’s important to use those that are fresh and good quality. Fresh garlic (no frozen garlic cubes!), herbs and extra virgin olive oil are a must! It is also a good idea to toast your nuts beforehand as it brings out their natural oils and intensifies their flavor.

While pesto is usually made from basil, pine nuts and parmesan, you can make pesto using a combination of any greens, nuts and cheeses. The basic components of any pesto include the following:

fresh leafy greens (basil, spinach, arugula) or herbs (parsley, mint, cilantro)  or mixed
nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, pistachios)
cheese (parmesan, romano, cheddar  or any dry, hard cheese)
acid (lemon, lime, red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar)
oil (extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed, walnut, hazelnut)
seasoning (fresh garlic, salt, pepper)

Once you have your ingredients, the pesto can be prepared by hand, using a mortar and pestle, or with a food processor or blender.

Basic Pesto Measurements:

3 cups packed fresh leafy greens
½ cup toasted nuts
1/2 cup grated parmesan (omit if making nondairy)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/3-1 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and pepper, to taste

Pesto Tips & Tricks:

* If you toast your nuts before using (it’s worth the extra step), make sure to cool them off before adding them to the food processor. Otherwise, the heat from the nuts will start to melt the cheese and your pesto will turn gummy.

* To keep your pesto from turning black in the fridge, cover it with an inch of olive oil. Just pour off the excess oil before serving.

* Leftover pesto can be frozen for future use. Just pour pesto into an ice cube tray for individual servings. Once it’s frozen, add the cubes to a ziploc bag.

What are some of your favorite pesto combinations? Share them with me in the comments below!


1 year ago: home-made fish sticks

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13 Comments so far ↓

  1. GIGI says:

    been following for a while…beautiful pictures and the food looks amazing! keep it up!


  2. Carol says:

    Thank you for this. I can’t take the smell of regular pesto (the only reason why I was glad my son, who loves it, moved out)it makes me feel ill. I will definitely try this recipe.

  3. dini says:

    thanks so much for this version! i hope to try it, pine nuts have become so expensive, so this sounds like a great alternative.

  4. sara2 says:

    This combination sounds amazing. What I would do for some of your pesto right now…!

  5. blumie says:

    if i want to make pesto with parmesan, a. is it the same quantities as the recipe you posted? and b. what nuts do you think would work best?

  6. ann says:

    do you have a good recipe for parve pesto?

    • chanie says:

      Yes, here it is:

      2 cups packed fresh basil
      ½ cup pine nuts
      2 large garlic cloves
      juice of 1/2 lemon
      1/2-2 cup extra virgin olive oil
      salt & pepper to taste

  7. ann says:

    thanks so much Chanie!

  8. Rochel says:

    Do you have a recipe for a pesto cream sauce to pour over a pasta?

  9. tia says:

    can I use normal spinach leaves as in not baby ones?

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