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Proper Pesto

Rated as 4.93 out of 5 Stars

"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 addictive spiciness. You can taste each ingredient, and yet when smashed together, new and wonderful flavors are released."
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35 m servings 181
Original recipe yields 8 servings


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  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 surface with olive oil.


  • Chef's Note:
  • 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; 17.8 1.7 4.1 6 169 Full nutrition

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Read all reviews 35
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RIDICULOUS!!! This was ridiculously good!! First time I've ever made pesto and won't make it any other way!! OMG! My 13 year old and husband gave it a "10" (we rate all of my food). I underst...

I have made pesto plenty of times using my Vitamix machine and I thought it was pretty good. Little did I realize how unprepared I was for the burst of flavor that hit my mouth when I tasted thi...

Got a mortar & pestle just to try this with summer's bounty of basil. Outstanding! After my first batch I watched the video and it gave me a better idea of the technique. Thanks Chef John.

It's really tasty. I used my usual olive oil, but I think I will try to find a mild version next time. I wish I knew more about mortar and pestles. I have one with a rough interior as Chef John...

Really delicious!! So fresh!! Excellent summer dish to beat the heat.

May not have ground to a paste as in video, or used the correct cheese, but I loved not using my tiny food processor. No electricity? Make pesto! Taste is wonderful, can't wait to have it on bre...

Wow! Fantastic. It took some time pounding in the ingredients, but Chef John is right. It is absolutely worth it! I took a piece of bread to clean out the mortar bowl. Did not want to waste a dr...

I used a combination of almonds and pistachios.

Wow. This was a revelation. I made half a batch because I was alone and my mortar and pestle is small; there was already a fair amount of cursing as I went about making this. It’s really not tha...