Classic Basil Pesto

September 1, 2014, Labor Day – The base recipe for this pesto came from page 161 of our copy of Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook.  We had about 10 cups of smashed pesto leaves grown in the backyard.


“Our goal in developing our pesto recipe was to heighten the basil and subdue the garlic flavors so that each major element balanced the other. We started with plenty of fresh basil, pounded to bruise it and release flavorful oils. To tame the raw garlic edge, we toasted it, toasting the nuts as well to give them flavor. We used a food processor to combine the ingredients in our pesto recipe quickly and easily, then thinned out the mixture with a little pasta water before tossing with the pasta; this allowed for good distribution throughout the pasta, softened the flavors, and highlighted the creaminess of the cheese and nuts”

“Pounding the basil releases its flavorful oils into the pesto more readily. Basil usually darkens in homemade pesto, but you can boost the green color a little by adding the optional parsley. For sharper flavor, substitute one tablespoon finely grated pecorino Romano cheese for one tablespoon of the Parmesan. The pesto can be kept in an airtight container, covered with a thin layer of oil (1 to 2 tablespoons), and refrigerated for up to four days or frozen for up to one month.”
All quoted text above was extracted from the cited cookbook.
9/1/2014 – The ingredients below and the instructions have been modified to be what we did that first time and had the best classic pesto (i.e. without cream cheese) I ever made. We filled one ice cube tray with the first 4C batch, covered it will aluminum foil and froze it.


  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves that had been bruised in a zip lock bag by rolling the beating the bag with a rolling pin
  • 6 large cloves of garlic, unpeeled toasted in a cast-iron skillet then peeled, trimmed, and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts toasted in the cast-iron skillet over medium heat
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • Drizzled enough olive oil to make a thick paste as the ingredients spun in the processor
  • 1/4 cup roughly grated parmesan cheese stirred in after processing


  1. Toast the nuts in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 5 minutes; set aside.
  2. Added the garlic to the empty skillet and toasted it over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally until the garlic cloves had a few dark brown roasted spots from the hot skillet.  Removed husks once the garlic has cooled.
  3. Put the basil in a heavy-duty 1-gallon Zip-lock bag. With an Italian rolling pin squeezed out the air and rolled on both sides in alternating directions. Then pounded the flatten bag across one direction then another then flip and repeated so all the leaves were bruised.
  4. Processed everything but the cheese–scraping down the sides of the processor to be sure it is consistent–until smooth.  Moved to a mixing bowl and stirred in the Parmesan and adjusted the salt.
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