Basil Pesto

This image courtesy of Mark Ferri

If you don’t grow your own basil, try to purchase bunches with the roots attached and fully intact. Fill a tall glass with cool water and stand the bunch up in the water, completely submerging the roots. The basil can stay out, at room temperature, for days this way (it’s actually a beautiful and aromatic addition to your kitchen!). Change the water daily. (If your basil starts to quickly wilt, it probably wasn’t fresh, so clean and dry the leaves and use them as soon as possible.) To store basil of average freshness, wrap the roots with a very damp paper towel and store the bunch in the refrigerator in a loose-fitting perforated plastic bag.

Serves4 cups



Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

Dietary ConsiderationEgg-free, Gluten-free, Halal, Kosher, Peanut Free, Soy Free, Vegetarian

EquipmentFood Processor

Taste and TextureCheesy, Herby, Salty, Savory

Type of DishPasta Sauce, Sauces


  • 4 cups packed basil leaves (from 2 large, very full bunches)
  • 6 to 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 scant cups olive oil (preferably a combination of Garlic Confit Oil and pure olive oil), plus more for topping
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1¼ cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Kosher or sea salt


  1. Place the basil leaves in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and, using the pulsing button, chop the leaves until reduced in volume. (Depending on the size of your workbowl, you might need to add half the amount of leaves at first, and when reduced, add the remaining leaves.) Add the garlic, pine nuts, red pepper flakes (if using), 2 cups olive oil, and a generous amount of black pepper. Process until the pesto is finely chopped but still retains some texture. If not planning to freeze the pesto, add the cheese and salt to taste. Process just to combine. (See Notes for instructions on freezing pesto.)

  2. Remove as much pesto as needed and, before storing the rest in the refrigerator, pour a generous layer of olive oil over the top. Keep pesto refrigerated in a well-sealed sturdy container. Bring the mixture to room temperature, before each use.


  1. Timing is Everything: Refrigerate pesto for several weeks in a well-sealed container, completely covered with a layer of good olive oil. To use, uncover and tilt the container to let the oil run to one side. Scoop out the pesto and cover the remaining pesto with the olive oil.

  2. To freeze pesto, combine all the ingredients, except the cheese and salt. Separate out the portion you’d like to freeze. For this portion, add salt sparingly and omit the cheese. (For remaining portion, add regular amounts of cheese and salt.) Freeze the pesto, covered with a generous layer of olive oil, for up to three months. Add the cheese and more salt after thawing.


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