Classic Basil Pesto

Posted on 14 September 2010

Classic basil pesto

I have decided to reclaim my life.

I have been spending far too much time at work lately–gearing up for what promises to be a revolutionary release–and am in dire need of some non-work time to recharge.

Conveniently, those groupbuying sites have conspired to fill my weekend with some fun experiences.

Classic basil pesto

On tap for Saturday was a culinary excursion in the Mission with two friends. I used to live in nearby Noe Valley so I am familiar with many of the older businesses in the area. In the intervening years, the gentrification of the area has accelerated and extended well into what were previously Latino strongholds.

Including 24th Street. It used to be comprised of taquerias, lavanderias, mercados, and tiendas full of quinceanera dresses and was mostly a convenient artery to the freeway. Now, intermingled among these businesses are little foodie havens, with new ones popping up all the time.

Classic basil pestoClassic basil pesto

Carrie from In the Kitchen with Lisa was our indomitable tour guide. At every stop, we met with food producers, who shared tales of working with other local, small, and usually sustainable businesses. We sampled at each, usually sweet, but a few savory. Given how many calories we consumed, I was very happy not to have eaten breakfast that morning.

Around noon, we merged with another group on the same food tour (lead by Lisa herself) and were treated to a mural tour of Balmy Alley. Along the way, I struck up an illuminating conversation with someone I thought was a fellow tour taker, but turned out to be Heather in SF,  a funny coincidence we didn’t realize until many hours later. She pointed out a subtle detail in my favorite mural: one eye of doom and one of hope.

It was a really good day.

Classic basil pesto

Plus, it was hot. Freaking hot. Gloriously hot. The kind of Indian summer day that we in the Bay Area live for, especially given the cold, rainy year we’ve had to date.

I had stopped by the farmers market before the tour and scored a screaming deal on basil. Screaming, literally. Three dollars per pound for over six pounds of basil.

Then I started picking the leaves off. For four hours. Granted, I enjoyed five consecutive episodes of Dexter during my labors, but four hours nonetheless.

Classic basil pesto

The next night was three and a half hours of pulverizing said basil, with pine nuts, garlic, oil, and cheese. I may have come close to burning out the food processor motor.

But, after so many hours, success (and back pain)! The more than six pounds of basil yielded nearly a gallon of pesto, all of which is currently nestled in my freezer. It will last well into the holiday season (I hope) as a lingering reminder of this summer’s few sun-kissed days.

Classic basil pesto

Classic Basil Pesto

Yield: 1 cup


4 cups fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
2-3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1 teaspoon kosher salt


Combine first 4 ingredients in a food processor. Process, stopping frequently to scrape down sides. Add cheeses and salt and process until smooth.
When I combine pesto and pasta, I usually use a little of the pasta water to dilute the pesto and give it a smoother, creamier texture.

Adapted from Bon Appetit


7 responses to Classic Basil Pesto

  • Your pictures are just gorgeous! It was a fun day and I am so glad to have met you in person, despite our prior connection not clicking until later. SF is such a small town in many ways, isn’t it? Lisa and Carrie are fantastic docents, I am learning so much from them. Next we need to head down there again for more tacos. You are inspiring me to make some pesto for my freezer too!

    • allfourburners says:

      Heather, thank you! It was great meeting you too, although I wish that we had figured it out a bit earlier. We are definitely on for tacos…maybe in the next few weeks?

  • Rebecca says:

    I might try this, since Bri is a huge basil fan. Beautiful photos.

    • allfourburners says:

      Rebecca, I really liked this pesto recipe, although you may want to consider using less olive oil. I reduced the amount in the original recipe, but still kept in a lot because I feared that the pesto could dry out in the freezer. If you are using it right away, you can probably get away with less.

  • taylor says:

    Your recipe looks good but the pesto in the photo is very dark – not the bright green i usually expect from fresh pesto. Was that previously frozen or in the fridge for a few days? Also, as pine nuts are so expensive, I have used toasted walnuts and toasted almonds with great success.
    Thank you!

    • allfourburners says:

      Taylor, I’m not sure which photo you are referring to so here are a couple of possible explanations:

      1. Pesto oxidizes/darkens when exposed to air. It could be that the pesto sat around while I was taking photos longer than you are accustomed to.
      2. The pesto in the containers in the penultimate photo was frozen.

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