Making Pesto by Hand

As the wanna-be herb farmer that I am, I have a few small herb planters at the back of my apartment on a small veranda. I’m still learning how to prune my little friends, but it was more than necessary yesterday. With a mix of basil and parsley that needed to be used up, as well as some leftover coriander in my fridge, I decided to make some pesto. Most recipes just tell you to throw everything into a blender, et voila! You may notice on my food blog that I’m not a big fan of fancy electric gadgets for cooking. Most of the time I only use plain cutlery (the fork being my favourite!) and a good set of sharp knives. So I decided to do it all by hand, the old-fashioned way. I made a mixed-herb variation, you may want to try basil-only, the procedure is always the same. A similar technique probably works well for other variations, such as sundried tomato – I’ll definitely try that soon and write about it.

Ingredients for About 180g

  • 1 Big Handful Herbs
  • Small Handful Pine Nuts
  • 4cm x 2cm x 1cm Piece of Parmesan
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Clove Garlic (optional)


Start by toasting the pine nuts on medium heat in a pan until they turn golden. With the aid of pestle and mortar, crush the pine nuts and put them aside. Do the same with the parmesan, eventually cutting it into small cubes prior. Chop the garlic very finely.
Prepare your herbs by cleaning out all the stems, only keeping the leaves.
From the pile of herbs, take a small amount and with a sharp, large knife start chopping them finely. Add some parmesan and nuts on top, and continue chopping. Try to deliberately aim at larger bits of parmesan and nuts, to make them very small as well.
When everything looks nice and homogenous, add the garlic, more herbs and more cheese and nuts. Continue chopping.
Repeat the process until there are no more herbs, cheese and nuts left.
At the very end, spend some extra 5-10 minutes chopping, from different directions, regrouping everything into a new pile every now and then.
Overall, the whole process may well take you 20-30 minutes, but it’s worth it! 🙂
The nice thing about this method is that you get different sizes, giving your pesto a much more grainy texture. This way, when you put it over your pasta, you’ll be able to actually identify bits of cheese, basil, etc. It’s not just a homogenous paste.
Once you’re done with the chopping, fill everything into a jar and start adding olive oil. Start with 3-4 teaspoons, stirring it through, gradually adding more until the mixture is easy to stir while not swimming in oil.
Overall I needed about 11-12 teaspoons.
Now you’re ready to boil up some pasta and enjoy the result of your efforts! 🙂
irinaPosted on Categories Basics, Italian, VegetarianTags , , , , ,