Pesto Sauce — Have It Your Way

~~~Traditional Pesto—both fresh and dry mixes—with flavor variations!~~~

Making PestoOriginating in Genoa, the capital city of Liguria, Northern Italy, Pesto is a sauce traditionally consisting of crushed garlic, European pine nuts, coarse salt, basil, Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan cheese) and pecorino sardo (cheese made from sheep’s milk), all blended with olive oil. This basic basil pesto can be a great topping for sandwiches, pasta, chicken and fish. A pizza can go from good to GREAT with pesto rubbed on the dough before baking. Make a dip out of pesto by combining it with your favorite dairy–sour cream, yogurt, or kefir–and enjoy it with bagel bites, tortilla chips, or crusty French Bread.

My favorite pesto used to be Classico® Basil Pesto. Soybean oil is the second ingredient though and I don’t “do” soybean oil. So I had to find a replacement. I worked and finally got a pesto that I loved MORE than Classico®. However, if you are a die-hard fan, I will let you in on a secret. You can take the recipe below and by changing the cheese to Romano cheese, doubling the garlic, and adding a teaspoon of oregano, you will have your Classico!

I also have listed popular variations on the traditional pesto. Don’t like pine nuts? Choose another from the list below. Not in the mood for basil? Try another of the wonderful choices for your “green”. There are also flavor combinations for the different cheeses you can use. Make your pesto your own!


Genovese Basil Pesto

Makes 1-1/2 cups

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons pine nuts (pignoli nuts)
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese*


  1. PastaWithPesto2 (1)Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. If using immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese. Toss with your favorite pasta or continue on with your chosen recipe. Refrigerated leftovers will last 5-7 Days.
  3. If freezing, transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw and stir in cheese.

*You may also use a combination of cheeses. Parmesan-Romano assortments are delicious with this recipe.

Freezer Tip: Use a minimal amount of oil, partially freeze, form into a ‘log’, wrap in wax paper then plastic and keep in the freezer. You are then able to “slice off” what you need!


Genovese Basil Pesto Dry Mix

To Prepare the Dry Mix

Makes 1 batch

2/3 cup dried basil
2 tablespoons pine nuts (pignoli nuts)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon dried, minced or granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup 100% natural grated cheese*

Three Cheese VarietiesDirections

  1. Grind pine nuts to a powder.
  2. Combine all ingredients into a pint Mason jar or food saver type bag. Seal, label, and date the container. Store in the refrigerator or freezer.
  3. If vacuum sealed and stored in the refrigerator, this mix will last 6-8 months. If vacuum sealed and stored in the freezer, this mix will last up to 1 year.

*You may also use a blend of grated cheeses. See picture above.

To Prepare Pesto

1 Packet of Pesto Dry Mix
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Combine the Pesto Dry Mix and oil until fully incorporated and smooth.
  2. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to blend and the basil to soften.
  3. Refrigerated leftovers will last 5-7 Days. Frozen, this prepared pesto will last 3-4 Months.


Pine Nuts

Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pines (family Pinaceae, genus Pinus). About 20 species of pine produce seeds large enough to be worth harvesting; in other pines the seeds are also edible, but are too small to be of notable value as a human food. Pine nuts have been eaten in Europe and Asia since the Paleolithic period. They are often added to meat, fish, salads and vegetable dishes, pesto sauce, or baked into bread. In Italian they are actually called pinoli. In the US they are often called pignoli, but in Italy pignolo is actually a word far more commonly used to describe a fussy, overly fastidious or extremely meticulous person (aka OCD).

But if you’ve looked for them at the grocery store recently, you know those little Italian nuts can sport a big price tag. And there are some who do not like the taste of pine nuts. Or maybe they just want a little variety. There are MANY nuts and seeds you can use to replace the traditional pignoli. Try one of these in your next batch of pesto. But whether you decide to use the traditional pine nuts, one of these other choices, OR a combination of any of the listed nuts and seeds, roast them first. The flavor will be worth the extra effort! Also, make sure your choice(s) is/are unsalted.

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Hazelnuts
  • Hemp Seeds
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Pepitas
  • Pinyon Pine Nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Unsalted Pumpkin Seeds
  • Unsalted Sunflower Seeds
  • Walnuts

Basil & Pine Nuts

Basil Substitutes

Out of basil? Want to try something different? Check out these alternatives to the traditional greenery for pesto. Try using a combination!

  • Arugula
  • Asparagus-Using one bunch asparagus, rinse, trim ends, then snap into two-inch pieces. Cook in boiling water or steam for four to five minutes, until barely tender. Add to blender instead of basil, or with a smaller amount of basil.
  • Broccoli Florets
  • Broccoli Rabe
  • Celery
  • Cilantro (Coriander Leaves)
  • Garlic Scapes
  • Kale
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Watercress


Printable Recipes can be found here, Genovese Basil Pesto Recipes.

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