Pesto alla Genovese is a classic basil pesto sauce originating from Liguria in the north-western part of the boot. This versatile fragrant sauce is quick and easy, making mealtime stress free.

The word pesto is derived from the Italian word pestare, which means to pound or to crush. This is exactly what a pestle and mortar is used for and also a more authentic way of making herb-infused sauces.
But, a food processor really does an excellent job in whipping up large batches of herb-based sauces. As a bonus, in a food processor, herb sauces can be put together in mere minutes. It’s so easy and delicious and perfect for big batch recipes.

Ingredients For An Authentic Pesto Alla Genovese

  • Basil, these sweet and tender leaves are an essential ingredient when making this Italian oil and herb-based sauce.
  • Pine Nuts, also known as pignoli are the edible seeds from pine trees and a must have component for this Genovese-style pesto.
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, is known as the king of all cheeses. I buy mine in large chunks and grate it fresh as needed for optimal flavour. You can also use a combo of Pecorino Romano or Grana Padana cheese.
  • Garlic infuses this oil and herb based sauce with its spicy flavour.
  • Salt to draw out all the natural flavours of a dish.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a key ingredient in Mediterranean cooking. Buy the best you can afford and keep it stored in a cool dark place away from light.

Why Are Pine Nuts So Expensive?

Pine nuts with their distinctive teardrop shape, are the edible seeds in pine cones, cultivated from pine trees. These trees take time to grow and reach their full maturity.
Once they’re mature enough to harvest, extracting the pine nuts from the cones is quite labour intensive.

How To Make A Classic Basil Pesto With A Food Processor

Follow the simple 1, 2, 3 steps below for an easy breezy sauce that makes mealtime a cinch.

  • Step 1 – Place the fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic cloves, salt and extra virgin olive oil into a food processor.
  • Step 2 – Pulse till combined.

You’ll want to use the shortest amount of time when pulsing the ingredients together. This way, the basil retains its vibrant green colour.

  • Step 3 – Transfer the basil mixture into a small bowl and stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

And this is all it takes to transform a few fresh ingredients into an aromatic sauce that can be used in so many ways.

What Can Basil Pesto Be Used For?

There are endless ways to use pesto while preserving the sweet flavours of Summer. Try it as a flavour booster for minestrone soup or pizza topping instead of the usual tomato pizza sauce.
Use it as a dressing for a potato salad or as a sandwich spread instead of mayonnaise as I sometimes do with my artichoke pesto recipe. Serve alongside grilled chicken or fish.


  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves (packed) (rinsed and patted dry)
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I used fine sea salt)
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


  • Place the basil, pine nuts, garlic, salt and extra virgin olive oil in a food processor or blender.
  • Pulse and process on high while using the shortest amount of time so the basil does not lose its vibrant green colour .
  • Transfer the basil mixture into a small bowl and stir in the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
  • Toss with your favourite pasta, gnocchi or even a potato salad. Or, use as a base for pizza topping.

Storing Instructions: Homemade basil pesto keeps quite well in the fridge, in an air tight jar, for approximately 2 weeks. When storing, always keep a thin layer of oil on the surface as this will keep the basil from turning brown or oxidizing.
Freezing Instructions:For optimal flavour freeze without the cheese for up to 3 months.
For optimal flavour freeze without the cheese for up to 3 months.
For 454g of pasta follow directions below. Serves 4-6 depending on portion size.

  • Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
  • Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, drain and return the pasta to the pot.
  • Toss the pasta with 3/4 cup of pesto and some of the reserved cooking water to thin out the sauce a little.
  • You can adjust the consistency of the sauce with a little more pesto or cooking water to your liking.
  • Serve with freshly cracked peppercorns and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.


Calories: 254kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 6mg | Sodium: 280mg | Potassium: 81mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 700IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 123mg | Iron: 1mg

Excerpted from Will Cook For Friends: Pesto Alla Genovese by Willow Arlen