Proper Pesto


Try this proper mortar and pestle pesto. There are lots of recipes people claim taste better if made by hand, but there's no easier case to prove that than pesto. The intensity of the flavors is beyond compare, and as if by some kind of magic, this gorgeous spread develops an irresistible spiciness. You can taste each ingredient, and yet when smashed together, new and wonderful flavors are released.

Prep Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
20 mins


  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled

  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 large bunch fresh basil

  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts

  • 2 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

  • ½ cup mild extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Crush garlic and pinch of kosher salt in a mortar with the pestle until garlic is mashed and paste-like, 1 or 2 minutes. Add basil in 3 or 4 additions, crushing and pounding down the leaves until they form a fairly fine paste, about 8 minutes or more depending on size of leaves and thickness of stems. Add and pound in pine nuts.

  2. Transfer a handful of grated cheese to mortar and pound into the sauce. Add another handful of cheese and incorporate into the mixture. Continue adding cheese a handful at a time until completely incorporated, about 5 minutes.

  3. Drizzle in olive oil 1 tablespoon at a time, pounding it into the sauce. When all the olive oil has been added and emulsified into the mixture, transfer pesto to a bowl and drizzle the surface with olive oil.

Chef's Notes:

The bunch of basil should weigh about 4 or 5 ounces.

Use a microplane to finely grate the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Two ounces should yield about 1 1/2 cups unpacked grated cheese.

Of course, you can play around with the ratios of the five ingredients, and easily adjust this to your tastes, but no matter how they're combined, taking the time to crush them by hand is well worth the effort.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

181 Calories
18g Fat
2g Carbs
4g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 8
Calories 181
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 18g 23%
Saturated Fat 3g 17%
Cholesterol 6mg 2%
Sodium 169mg 7%
Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 3mg 17%
Calcium 110mg 8%
Iron 1mg 5%
Potassium 81mg 2%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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