Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto basil 01


It looks like green goop. But it tastes divine.

You might have noticed giant bunches of fresh basil at the store. When I walk past these delicate, fragrant herbs my mind goes to one place. 

I’m talking, of course, about pesto.

Traditional pesto is made of basil, garlic, parmigiano-reggiano, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pine nuts. Diehard purists will tell you that the basil and garlic must be special varieties from Genova. But don’t let that stop you. Pesto is, after all, essentially a garlic sauce aromatized by basil and given body by the other ingredients. It’s not rocket science with only one possible formula. 


50g basil (about 60-65 leaves)
½ extra virgin olive oil (I’m partial to the Acropolis brand)
100g grated Parmigiano-reggiano

2 peeled garlic cloves
15g pine nuts
A pinch of sea salt to taste

The key is to remember that pesto is a thick paste not a thin sauce. We want a rough chop. We want some texture. Pulse the food processor and don’t overdo it. 


1. Add the basil, salt and garlic to the food processor and pulse until you get a very rough chop.

  1. Add the pine nuts and olive oil. Pulse a few times.
  2. Add the cheese. Pulse a few more times.


  1. Since it only takes a couple of minutes, make the pesto fresh immediately before use.
  2. If adding to pasta, add a couple tablespoons of pasta water to the pan to help the pesto emulsify and spread. 

That’s it. Finitto. 

Or maybe not finitto. That depends on you.

Once you’ve mastered traditional pesto, don’t be afraid to experiment with your own variations. Pecans, cashews and walnuts all add a different flavour to the pesto. So does the addition of other herbs. Massiomo Bottura, the famed chef behind Osteria Francescana (one of only ten restaurants in Italy with three Michelin Stars) is well known for his reimagined pesto with breadcrumbs, parsley and mint. You can see his original recipe here: 

Good luck with your pesto adventures!

Peter Roberts is a sought after nutrition consultant and strength and conditioning coach in Toronto. He’s been the head coach at Quantum CrossFit since 2010 (East York’s most highly rated gym) and consulted with Canada Basketball and Rugby League Canada, among others. He provides free fitness and nutrition resources on his site to teach people how to get fitter and feel great without it being a struggle.

Photo by Artur Rutkowski on Unsplash



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