Pesto alla Genovese (and some new ways to use it!)

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I don’t know about you but the smell of fresh basil leaves really brings back special memories for me.

Every year, when the first week of September hits, we have always “made tomatoes”.

Making tomatoes is when a group of you (meaning EVERYONE in your immediate family) spends the whole weekend canning tomatoes.  It’s something we have done for decades and everything about that weekend has to do with tomatoes (even your skin smells like tomatoes for days!).  But, as a kid, my job – because we all had our own job in this process – was to put the basil leaf in the jars after the tomato passata was poured in.  Being in charge of the basil made me so happy because, not only did it smell glorious, but it reminded me of every afternoon in the summer when my dad would come home.

When he was done work and arrived back home, he would walk through the house without saying one word, grab a crusty piece of Italian bread, walk into the garden, pick a basil leaf, tuck it behind his ear, pick a tomato off the vine, squish it on bread and take a big bite.  When the smile came on his face, my sister and I knew that this was the signal for him to bend down and kiss us on the cheek.  What do I remember most?  The waft of basil that floated in the air as he bent down.  It was heavenly!!

Fast forward to 2016, and that glorious smell of basil reminds me of our incredible summers here in Ontario.  It may not be long, but it is pretty fantastic!!

So, let’s talk pesto.  The word “pesto” actually comes from the verb pestâ or pestare in Italian, which means to pound or crush, in reference to how it was originally made.  According to historical info, traditional Genoese pesto or pesto alla genovese, was made with all the ingredients you see here in this recipe in a mortar  and “crushed” or ground using a circular motion with a pestal to create a paste.

In actual fact, pesto is a generic term for anything that is made by pounding and that’s why the word is used for several different kinds of pestos in Italy.  You can substitute any herb for the basil and use it in so many ways.

I’ve made pesto where I’ve subbed in parsley and some mint for the basil and drizzled it over lamb kebabs…glorious!!


But made the old fashioned way, it is simply basil, garlic, parmigiano, pine nuts (and often walnuts) with a good dose of olive oil.


Once it’s done, you can freeze it in ice cubes and plop one cube in a saucepan with a touch of cream to throw on your pasta …dinner done in a pinch!


I love it on a white pizza (pizza without tomato sauce)…this one below is spread with pesto, sprinkled with mozzarella and parm, topped with goat cheese stuffed zucchini flowers and then drizzled with truffle oil when it comes out of the oven…heaven!!


However you make it, give it a shot this summer…you will find yourself coming up with a million ways to use it!!


Basil Pesto
Cuisine: italian
Author: Suzie Durigon
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 2 500ml jars
The traditional pesto made with basil is so versatile, you will be using it all summer long!!
  • 1/2 pine nuts (or walnuts)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups loosely packed basil – leaves only
  • 1 tbsp butter optional but gives a good depth
  • 1 ice cube
  • 2/3 c olive oil, pluse more for topping your jar
  • 1/4 c parmigiano, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, place the garlic and nuts; pulse until crumbly.
  2. Add basil and pulse again; then add butter if using and pulse again.
  3. Add ice cube and pulse again.
  4. With the machine running, slowly stream in oil until it becomes a paste.
  5. Place mixture in a small bowl and stir in the parmigiana; season to taste and transfer to a small jar and smooth the top.
  6. Add a good helping of olive oil to the top to preserve the top (olive oil is a preservative)