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    Pesto alla Genovese

    Basil + pine nuts + garlic + parmesan + extra-virgin olive oil = Pesto alla Genovese!

    And, of course, a little coarse salt and a dash of lemon juice and you are in Pesto Paradise… See it has a simple soul!! Yet green magic happens in your jar.

    Are you ready for this classic fresh taste of summer? A heaping spoonful of this vibrant, flavorful, green, nutty, garlicky sauce, your very own pesto. No store bought sauce will come close to the taste and freshness of your own… no chance!!

    Pesto alla Genovese! This Italian classic sauce is simple yet so tasty, it will make you fall in love with Italian food all over again!

    Summer is here people, and it’s here to stay for a long time. It’s a gazillion degrees outside. But then this is the time when all my herbs come alive and seem to grow overnight, especially my beloved basil.

    He looks happy and seem to shout out to me… hey, c’mere and get me! That jarful of pesto starts dancing in front of my eyes.

    Why not, it is truly a celebration of this summery, sweet, pungent, aromatic plant. And just like that, pesto happens… it’s pesto night!

    a large batch of basil in a glass vase

    What is Pesto?

    Pesto alla Genovese sounds so fancy and gourmet, right? Most of the time you find it in the gourmet section of the store. Don’t let it intimidate you, it’s just a quick blitz in your grinder of a few classic ingredients.

    That’s the basic idea behind this Italian sauce, which originated in Genoa, located in the northern region of Italy. The name comes from the Italian verb “pestare”, or the Genoese verb “pesta”, which means “to pound” or “to crush”.

    side view of pesto in a round brown bowl

    Why We LOVE this Easy Genovese Pesto

    • Versatility: First up, this green elixir is a chameleon in the kitchen. Drizzle it on pasta, spread it on sandwiches, use it as a marinade… we’ll give you plenty of ideas later in the post!
    • Fresh Ingredients: Made with freshly plucked basil leaves and high-quality olive oil, this pesto screams “garden-fresh.” And let’s be real, fresh is best!
    • Flavor Complexity: The combination of ingredients creates a symphony of flavors. One taste, and your palate goes on an Italian adventure!
    • Easy to Make: Got a blender or food processor? Then you’re just a few pulses away from homemade pesto glory. It’s that simple!
    zoomed out image of bowl of pesto, surrounded by basil leaves

    Traditionally, some Italian grandma would make this classic mix in her mortar and pestle. But come modern times, you can easily replicate this in your grinder or food processor with quick pulses.

    That same Italian grandma would scoff at some of the modern variations people started trying, with different herbs and greens and playing with different nuts and cheeses… equally delicious though. But today lets make that grandma happy and stick to classic basil pesto.

    Ingredient Notes

    close up image of basil leaves
    • Fresh Basil – Fresh, happy looking basil. If you don’t have it in your garden or kitchen already, you would find it a plenty in a farmer’s market or local produce store in summer time. Another way to find them is those potted plants in your grocery store. Chop him up for tonight, then let him grow for more pesto. Wash gently and pluck the leaves off the stem.
    • Pine nuts – These give a nutty, buttery flavor to your pesto. You can also use walnuts for a more budget friendly option.
    • Fresh whole garlic cloves – You only need a couple of them here, just enough to to get that sublime pungent note. Remember, you can always add more if you want, but can’t take it out.
    • Cheese – When it comes to cheese, it’s up to you if you want to use Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano. Just one thumb rule to follow, pesto need hard, salty, aged cheese. Nothing creamy or soft here, you want some substance, chunkiness and a little texture.
    • Olive oil – Some use extra virgin, some use a lighter olive oil. I use both, but today my mood and my pantry said extra virgin. Make sure you are using good quality oil for the best flavor.
    • Coarse salt – Season it with your heart and be sure to taste and adjust.
    • Lemon juice – A dash of this tanginess in your pesto really elevates it to the 100th degree. Try it with and without lemon juice, I bet you will always add lemon juice henceforth.
    a pile of pine nuts

    How to Make Pesto Genovese

    This classic Mediterranean recipe is very, very simple…

    ingredients for this recipe arranged in a grinder
    1. Blitz in your blender or food processor. Pulse basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, cheese, and salt a few times until everything is chopped. You need to pulse and not blend, as we need a rough pesto texture, not too thin or smooth.
    2. Slowly drizzle olive oil once all the above ingredients are chopped and combined. Drizzle in between pulses and make sure everything is well combined and emulsified. If needed, stop and scrape the sides of the blender to make sure everything gets mixed.
    3. Don’t forget the lemon juice! Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon and pulse a final time.
    4. Taste and adjust. My favorite step! Now is the time to adjust “your” pesto according to “your” taste. Want some more salt… or garlic… or even more cheese or lemon? It’s all what YOU want!
    roughly chopped basil, pine nuts, garlic and cheese in a grinder


    Basically, these are the things any Italian purist will roll their eyes at, but variety is the spice of life… here it goes…

    • Mix in other herbs and greens. In place of basil, or along with basil, add spinach, arugula, kale, parsley, or cilantro. It would give great varied taste to your pesto, depending which herb or greens you used. Our favorite is basil + arugula.
    • No pricey pine nuts? No problemo. You can use walnuts, almonds (we would recommend blanching the almonds), pistachios, cashews. You want to know our favorite other than pine nuts? More buttery than pine nuts? Macadamia nuts! Boy, that’s yum pesto!
    • Want to go nut-free? Use pepita (pumpkin seeds) or hemp seeds.
    • Experiment with cheeses. Any hard cheese would do. How about some Asiago??

    Serving Suggestions

    Anything that needs a little zest or flavor enhancement, pesto is your answer. We love it so much that we have all sorts of pesto recipes here on GypsyPlate. Give them a try!

    Some more ideas…

    • On a flatbread pizza.
    • Pesto Alfredo.
    • As a dipping sauce.
    • As a marinade (you can thin this with more olive oil) for your grilled or baked meats.
    • On top of your grilled or baked meats… and even fish, yum.
    • On roasted veggies.
    • As a sauce or condiment for sandwiches, wraps, salads, pasta salads, gnocchi, zucchini noodles, crostini and so so many things…

    Tips for the BEST Pesto alla Genovese

    • Choose Quality Ingredients: Opt for the best to make each element shine.
    • Toast the Pine Nuts: Brings out nutty flavors, but watch for burning.
    • Stream the Oil: Add slowly while blending for a creamier texture.
    • Adjust to Taste: Tweak salt, garlic, and lemon to suit your palate.
    • Fresh Lemon Juice: Always go for freshly squeezed!

    Leftovers and Storage

    Refrigerate. It’s stored best up to 5-6 days in a sealed airtight container. To store it without it turning brown, pour a thin layer of olive oil on top of your sauce to cover its surface. Alternately, you can press a cling plastic wrap directly onto pesto Genovese.

    another image of this lovely sauce in the brown bowl

    Freeze. This freezes beautifully! You can freeze in large batches if need be. But we like to freeze it in smaller portions so we can use it several times, even when summer is past and basil is not readily available.

    For this, freeze the pesto in ice cube trays and, once frozen, take them out and store these cubes in a freezer bag and freeze them till you are craving for pesto time.

    very close up picture showing the desired consistency of our sauce

    Isn’t that enough to make you want your own jar? What are you waiting for? Hunt down the ingredients for this amazingly versatile sauce and get blitzing in your chopper.

    Once you have homemade Genovese Pesto, it’s pretty much destined… you are never going back to store bought! It’s simply not going to do it for you!! 🙂

    Pesto alla Genovese, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!

    a bowl of pesto atop the gypsy plate

    Check out these other great sauces and seasonings!
    Cuban Mojo Marinade
    Homemade Sofrito
    North African Chermoula
    Creole Mustard
    Chipotle Mayo
    Cilantro Mint Chutney
    Jamaican Jerk Marinade
    Guasacaca (Venezuelan Guacamole)

    close up of pesto in a bowl

    Pesto alla Genovese

    Yield: 1 cup
    Prep Time: 5 minutes
    Total Time: 5 minutes

    Pesto alla Genovese! This classic sauce from Genoa is an Italian classic. Blending the freshness of basil, the pungency of garlic, the buttery nuttiness of pine nuts, and of course some nice olive oil, this wonderful sauce will make you fall in love with Italian food all over again!


    • 2 cups basil
    • 2 garlic cloves
    • 1/3 cup pine nuts
    • 1/4 cup Parmigiano cheese (or other hard cheese)
    • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
    • 1 Tbsp lemon juice


    1. Rinse basil and remove leaves from stem. Peel garlic.
    2. Add basil leaves, garlic cloves, cheese, salt and pine nuts to blender or food processor. Pulse a few times until ingredients are blended into a coarse mixture.
    3. Drizzle in olive oil and pulse blender until all ingredients are well mixed. If needed, scrape sides of blender to ensure everything is evenly mixed.
    4. Add lemon juice and again pulse.
    5. Taste and adjust salt, garlic and cheese to your taste.


    1. Choose Quality Ingredients: Opt for the best to make each element shine.
    2. Toast the Pine Nuts: Brings out nutty flavors, but watch for burning.
    3. Stream the Oil: Add slowly while blending for a creamier texture.
    4. Adjust to Taste: Tweak salt, garlic, and lemon to suit your palate.
    5. Fresh Lemon Juice: Always go for freshly squeezed!
    6. To Store: Refrigerate 5-6 days in an airtight container. Or, freeze in ice cube tray, then transfer frozen cubes to a freezer-safe zip top bag.

    Nutrition Information
    Yield 8 Serving Size 1
    Amount Per Serving Calories 173Total Fat 18gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 15gCholesterol 3mgSodium 203mgCarbohydrates 2gFiber 0gSugar 0gProtein 2g

    Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.

    Did you make this recipe?

    Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

    Picture of Alpana, blogger and recipe developer at GypsyPlate

    Welcome to GypsyPlate! I'm Alpana, former wordwide tour manager and professional caterer, now full time blogger. I love exploring cuisines from around the world, and my recipes have been featured on sites such as MSN, Parade, Brit + Co, CNET and AOL. You can explore my entire collection of sortable recipes in my Recipe Index or learn more about me here.

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