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Pesto Sauce-Keeping it Green

by Mary Sacks

Pesto Sauce Recipe

Pesto sauce isn’t just for pasta. Stir it into a soup, spread it on a pizza or mix it in a dip.


  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves (about 1 large bunch)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ pine nuts
  • ¾ cup grated hard cheese
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • salt to taste


  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Set a colander in a large bowl of ice water (this will make it easier to strain the basil later). Working in batches, blanch basil for 10 seconds. Using a large slotted spoon, transfer basil to a colander in ice water; let cool completely. Set aside ½ cup blanching water. Reserve pot with blanching water.
  • Drain basil by lifting colander from ice water. Using your hands, squeeze excess water from basil; transfer basil to paper towels. (You should have about ½ cup.)
  • Place blanched basil, ½ cup cheese, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until well combined, adding blanching water by tablespoonful to thin if needed, and stopping occasionally to scrape down sides. Process until a smooth, thick purée form, about 1 minute.
  • Transfer basil mixture to a medium bowl. Stir in ½ cup oil. Season to taste with salt.
  • Return water in the pot to a boil; add more salt. Cook spaghetti, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Spoon ½ cup pesto and ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid into a large bowl. (Cooking liquid is optional.) Using tongs, transfer spaghetti to the bowl and toss vigorously, drizzling with oil and adding more pesto and remaining cheese as you continue to toss until spaghetti is glossy and well coated with sauce. Season with salt. Divide among bowls; sprinkle with additional cheese.

Food for Thought

  • If you are not up to blanching, I’ve been known to put in a small handful of thawed frozen peas. Does two things. Thickens the sauce and adds a brighter green color.
  • It is not necessary to blanch the basil, but if you want it to keep its color then blanching it is.
  • I split my pine nuts. Half goes in the sauce and the rest gets sprinkled on the meal.
  • I prefer a food processor to a blender because then my pesto has fresh pieces of the ingredients throughout the dish.
  • The olive oil may never see the processor. There is a good chance I will just mix the oil in at the end. The extra-virgin olive oil contains a larger amount of polyphenols which is trapped in the fat molecules. When the fat droplets are broken up by the blades the bitter taste from the oil is released. The more the oil is blended the bitterer the taste becomes.
  • I’m a basil fan; however, no rule says it’s a must. Can sub in parsley, spinach, cilantro, kale, etc.
  • It doesn’t need to be pine nuts. Walnuts work too.


  • 4 or 1 cup

Mary Sacks
Mary Sacks


Retired Certified Executive Chef and Educator

1 Response

Geraldine V Vergona
Geraldine V Vergona

October 27, 2018

This recipe is terrific!

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