Pesto Making 101

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Last night, I went over to my sister and her fiancé’s house for dinner. We decided to make farfalle with pesto. My sister’s fiancé asked me what recipe I use for the pesto, and I said that I don’t use one. He looked relieved. “Good,” he said. “Neither do I.”

The thing about making pesto is, you don’t really need a recipe. It’s all about eyeballing it and tasting the sauce as you go. I usually start with a couple cups of basil leaves, a handful of pine nuts, a generous helping of grated Parmesan, a few peeled garlic cloves, a squeeze of lemon juice, a sprinkle of salt, and a layer of olive oil. I blend everything in a food processor until it starts looking like sauce.

If it looks too chunky, I add more olive oil. If I taste it and it’s too garlicky, I add more basil and cheese. There’s not really a sweet spot with pesto because everyone’s tastes are different, but I like to err on the side of less garlic. I think two to three whole cloves is fine, but if you like garlic, go crazy and add more.

A word to the wise: Quality matters with pesto. If you use shitty olive oil and the pre-minced garlic that comes in a jar, your pesto probably won’t taste as good. It’s sad but true. Also, fresh basil makes a big difference. I bought some from Trader Joe’s last night and it tasted pretty good. But the best pesto I’ve ever made had leaves that I bought fresh from the farmers’ market. Everyone who tried it could taste the difference.

ANYWAY. That’s my two and a half cents on pesto making. Feel free to sub out different greens for basil if you can’t find any, or use other kinds of nuts. One of my favorite pesto pasta recipes calls for kale, walnuts, and soba noodles.

In semi-related news, here’s a song that we listened to after dinner. As my sister said, the song shows Drake’s thug side, not his whiny, emotional, I’m still hung up on Rihanna side. I love Drake unconditionally, though.

Pesto Recipe (from me, to you)


2 cups basil leaves
2 Tbsp pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
pinch of sea salt
squeeze of lemon juice
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 cloves garlic, peeled


Blend the ingredients in a food processor or high-powered blender until smooth. Add more basil, garlic, or olive oil depending on your pesto preferences. Enjoy!

About Emily Wasserman

Bonjour! My name is Emily and I'm a writer based in St. Louis. I'm also a home baker with a small business, Amélie Bakery. I'm a self-proclaimed francophile and love French pastries and baking.
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