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How to Make a Basil Pesto Sauce (Italian and Peruvian Recipes)

Vespa's recipes have appeared in "Midwest Living" and "Taste of Home". She belongs to Cook's Recipe Testers for "Cook's Illustrated".

Fresh Basil Pesto & Pasta

Fresh Basil Pesto & Pasta

Recipe for Pesto Sauce: Italian and Peruvian Pesto

We received a lunch invitation the day we arrived in Peru. What was on the menu? tallarín verde, or green noodles. Although it didn't sound especially appealing, the enthusiasm of the youngest member of the family was hard to ignore. Bouncing up and down, she licked her lips and rolled her eyes in ecstasy. "It's her favorite dish," the mother explained fondly.

Maybe it was an acquired taste, like green eggs and ham? Never one to turn up our nose at new foods, we dutifully showed up at the family's home at high noon. When a generous portion of pasta was set before us, we realized with surprise that tallarín verde is the Peruvian version of Italian pesto! A pourable green sauce made without olive oil, it is creamy and mild. Like America's macaroni and cheese, this dish is a popular comfort food and a favorite of many Peruvian children. Often served with potato slices smothered in an aji-based Peruvian sauce, this dish quickly became one of our favorites as well.

Of course, we still enjoy classic Italian pesto. Versatile as a condiment, it can be used as a sandwich spread and adds zest to lasagna. Swirl a dollop into homemade tomato soupfor an extra special treat. Although Peruvian pesto is lower in fat, both pesto varieties are full of antioxidants and calcium and form part of a healthy lifestyle.

Classic Italian Pesto

Classic Italian Pesto

Zesty and Fresh Italian Basil Pesto

Prep timeReady inYields

30 min

30 min

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup walnuts and/or pine nuts (pignolias)
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 3/4 cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated
  • 4 cups basil leaves
  • 1 cup olive oil, extra virgin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Note: For sun-dried tomato pesto, use 1 (8.5-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil (both tomatoes and oil) instead of 1 cup of olive oil listed in the above ingredients.

Metric Conversion

  • 75 grams walnuts and/or pine nuts
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 65 grams parmesan cheese
  • 230 grams basil leaves
  • 240 mL olive oil
  • 5 mL salt
  • 5 mL ground pepper

Instructions

  1. Place nuts, garlic, parmesan, salt, and pepper in food processor container. Process until well blended.
  2. Add basil leaves and continue to process until a green paste has formed.
  3. While processor is running, slowly add olive oil in a stream until the ingredients come together.
  4. Toss fresh pesto with hot pasta. Serve with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.
  5. Buon Appetito!

Tips and Variation Ideas

  • If you don't have enough basil, you can substitute up to half the volume of leaves with baby spinach, kale, or chard.
  • Try cilantro instead of basil for a delicious variation on the classic.
  • Substitute pecans or almonds for the walnuts.
  • Choose your favorite pasta to toss with pesto. My husband is adamant about his pasta of choice: angel hair.
  • For creamier pesto, combine with heavy cream before tossing with hot pasta.
  • For lower fat creamy pesto, combine with a few tablespoons of pasta water before tossing with hot pasta.
  • Pesto can be stored in a glass jar in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. A thin layer of olive oil on the pesto's surface will keep oxidization to a minimum.
  • Pesto freezes well. Try freezing in ice cube trays and storing the cubes in ziplock bags.

Serving Ideas

  • Don't miss Mama Kim's delicious chicken alfredo and pesto vegetable lasagna!
  • Swirl a dollop of pesto into thick and creamy tomato soup.
  • Mix one tablespoon pesto with one tablespoon mayonnaise for a sandwich spread, especially delicious with chicken or turkey.
  • Blend pesto and ricotta for a unique party dip.
  • Add pesto to the ricotta cheese layer for extra flavorful lasagna.
  • Spread pesto on toasted baguettes and serve with soup.
Peruvian Tallarin Verde

Peruvian Tallarin Verde

Peruvian Tallarin Verde (Green Noodles)

This is Peruvian comfort food at its best. A pourable sauce, it's tossed with spaghetti or linguine pasta.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup or 35 grams raw pecans
  • 4 ounces or 110 grams fresh cheese (queso fresco)
  • 1/2 cup or 120 mL evaporated (canned) milk
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • extra fresh cheese, for grating

Note: 1 cup cottage cheese is a great substitute for the fresh cheese and evaporated milk.

Instructions

  1. Place ingredients in a blender container and process until smooth.
  2. Serve with a sprinkling of grated queso fresco.

Comments

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 08, 2013:

moonlake, thanks for pinning this pesto recipe!

moonlake from America on December 07, 2013:

Your pesto sauce looks so good. I never make it and I should. Pinning so I can keep track of recipe.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on May 30, 2013:

RTalloni, I'm glad you enjoyed smelling--I mean looking at this Hub! Basil is such an aromatic herb and this pesto is delicious. Thanks for your meaningful comment!

RTalloni on May 30, 2013:

How wonderful these recipes smell, um, I mean look. I love, love, love basil and really could smell these recipes going together as I read them! :)

Thanks for sharing them with all the tips and serving suggestions.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on March 01, 2013:

PeggyW, thank you for sharing! We especially love the pesto mayo spread on turkey sandwiches. I hope you have a chance to try the Peruvian version. It's so easy to make and delicious, too.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 01, 2013:

Came back to tell you that I am sharing this great recipe with others. I like your idea of also mixing it with mayo for a sandwich spread. Pesto is so versatile! Will have to try your Peruvian pourable version. Looks interesting and I know that it would taste good.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 04, 2012:

Tammyswallow, thanks for your kind words! I like both types of pesto when they're well-prepared. And they're healthy, too!

Tammy from North Carolina on December 04, 2012:

Wow! If you ever open a resturaunt, I will be first in line. This is exotic and beautiful. I love basil. Gorgeous hub!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on October 07, 2012:

PeggyW, how nice to have an abundance of fresh basil in your garden! Pesto is so versatile and it's great to have a frozen stock in the freezer. I also enjoy pesto mixed with equal part mayo for a yummy sandwich spread. Thank you for taking the time to comment and vote. I really appreciate it!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 07, 2012:

I just made a huge batch of fresh pesto yesterday from my abundant basil crop which needed to be trimmed. I put it up in small containers and top it with a little extra virgin olive oil and then freeze them for future use. The extra oil on top keeps it from oxidizing and losing that bright green color. Today I made a homemade vegetable soup and added a rounded teaspoon of the pesto to it. Yummy like your suggestion of adding it to tomato soup. Thanks for your recipes. Up votes!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on October 01, 2012:

Prettynutjob, thank you for your nice comment. : ) I am grateful for the nice variety of fresh produce available here in Peru. It's all locally grown, too, and sometimes exotic. Thanks for the vote and share, too!

Mary from From the land of Chocolate Chips,and all other things sweet. on October 01, 2012:

I love that your recipes always seem to have such fresh and wonderful ingredients, shared and voted up.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 19, 2012:

Jbrock2041, thanks for coming by again! Yes, pesto popular all over the world as you can see by the Peruvian pesto recipe I've included. I love that it includes lots of fresh ingredients, too. I appreciate your comment.

jbrock2041 from Park City, UT on September 19, 2012:

Clearly by the amount of comments you have on this recipe, everyone loves pesto! And I'm joining in because pesto is so wonderful. It's also very healthy for you so I don't feel guilty about eating it. Thanks for sharing.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 18, 2012:

I'm glad you enjoyed the pesto recipe. Both the Italian and Peruvian version are delicious in their own unique way. Thank you for coming by, Alocsin. I really appreciate it!

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on September 18, 2012:

That looks thick enough to be guacamole. The fact that it's one of my favorite toppings, pesto, makes my mouth water. I'll forward this to the family cook to give it a try. Voting this Up and Useful.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 09, 2012:

Surprisingly, several readers have said that they'd never or only recently tasted pesto. I hope you have a chance to enjoy this recipe. It's a great way to use up extra pesto and it's so tasty. CyberShelley, thanks so muuch for the vote and comment.

Shelley Watson on September 09, 2012:

I love pasta, and believe it or not, only recently enjoyed basil pesto, so I am so very glad to have this recipe. I use capellini pasta, just slightly thicker than the angel hair your husband enjoys. Up, useful and interesting.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 08, 2012:

An abundance of garden fresh basil is the perfect thing for making a large batch of pesto. Enjoy! It freezes well, too. Thanks so much for coming by, Alina R!

Alina R from Toronto, Canada on September 08, 2012:

I have got a lot of basil growing in my backyard, I think I will harvest it for a jar of pesto!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 07, 2012:

Alina R, thank you for coming by!

Alina R from Toronto, Canada on September 07, 2012:

Thank you for sharing this recipe, I just love pesto!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 07, 2012:

Olde Cashmere, thanks so much for the votes and comment!

Olde Cashmere on September 06, 2012:

Thank you vespawoolf for this recipe and for the variations. Voting up, and rated useful, awesome, and interesting :)

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 06, 2012:

Glimmer Twin Fan, thanks so much for paying me another visit. I always appreciate it!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 06, 2012:

JSParker, thank you for your kind words and I'm glad you enjoyed the article. I'm glad you'll be more open to try pesto next time! It really is delicious and all the healthy monounsaturated fats and fresh herbs are beneficial to our health as well. I appreciate the time you took to come by and leave a comment!

Claudia Mitchell on September 06, 2012:

I had to go back and reread your profile because your recipes are always so awesome! This looks delicious. Voted up and pinned!

JSParker from Detroit, Michigan on September 06, 2012:

This is a beautifully done recipe hub. I like the way you start with a personal story which builds interest and rapport with your reader.

My first reaction when a friend gave me some homemade basil pesto was, "Oh, it's so green!" I admit I didn't try it. I'll be more open to it next time.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 04, 2012:

Randomcreative, I'm glad you enjoyed the tips and serving ideas. Pesto is so versatile. Thank you for coming by!

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on September 04, 2012:

I love your tips and serving ideas! Pesto is one of my favorites. There are so many possibilities for it.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 04, 2012:

LetitiaFT, I'm glad you like the photos! That's a real compliment coming from you, with all the beautiful photos you take. I hope you can try the Peruvian pesto. It's so delicious and different from the classic style. Thanks so much for coming by!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 04, 2012:

Mhatter, thank you for coming by!

LetitiaFT from Paris via California on September 04, 2012:

I've been meaning to write up a pesto recipe, but yours tops whatever I could do. I never thought to cover leftover basil with olive oil or freeze it, though come to think of it, I don't recall every having any left over! I love the idea of Peruvian pesto and am anxious to try it. P.S. Gorgeous pics!

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on September 03, 2012:

Thank you for sharing this great recipe.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 03, 2012:

Mama Kim 8, my husband is pleased to know someone is on his side. : ) I hope you have a chance to try the Peruvian version. Thanks for the vote, share and comment!

Sasha Kim on September 03, 2012:

Your husband has good taste... I always insist on angel hair as well, even for spaghetti ^_^ The Peruvian version sounds amazing and I must try it! Thank you very much! voted and shared!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 03, 2012:

Molometer, it's nice to see you again! I'm glad you found this recipe useful and hope you enjoy it. Thank you for the comment, share and pin.

Micheal from United Kingdom on September 03, 2012:

I adore Pesto sauce and Pasta. I will be trying this recipe very soon. Bookmarked. There is nothing so revitalizing than a great Pesto. Shared and pinned.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 03, 2012:

MargaritaEden, I appreciate the kind words. Although delicious, pine nuts aren't available here in Peru and besides, they're so expensive! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

MargaritaEden from Oregon on September 03, 2012:

What a wonderful recipe, I love pesto, I am glad that you give the substitutuion options, especially for pine nuts, they can be so spendy, great recipe! Sharing it.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 03, 2012:

Skarlet, sorry to have ruined your snack! I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment.

Skarlet from California on September 03, 2012:

I love pesto too. The pictures here have turned me off of my snack of cottage cheese and in search of pasta.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 03, 2012:

Julie DeNeen, it's always nice to hear from a fellow pesto lover! Thanks so much for the vote and comment. I hope you have a chance to try the Peruvian version someday, as well.

Blurter of Indiscretions from Clinton CT on September 03, 2012:

Oh my goodness, this looks delicious. I am a HUGE fan of pesto. Voting up!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 03, 2012:

Carol7777, thanks for being the first reader and commenter on this hub! It's nice to know another pesto lover. I appreciate the vote, as well.

carol stanley from Arizona on September 03, 2012:

I love pesto sauce, in fact we had some for dinner last nite. I use what I have on hand which was spinach, walnuts and olive oil. I just added some dry spices along with parmesan cheese.. Good hub and I am voting up.