Pesto Sauce

pesto sauce pinit View Gallery 2 photos

This pesto sauce was inspired by a visit to Italy. We were searching for a lunch spot in Santa Margherita Ligure, a gorgeous little town on the Italian Riviera but were put off by the touristy places on the seafront. A couple of streets back we found an amazing hole-in-the-wall run by severe Nonna and full of workmen – this was clearly a great find! Being in Liguria we had to try the pesto, and we were not disappointed. On our return home, I have been experimenting trying to recreate this amazing meal.

This pesto sauce is made with a pestle and mortar – I know it seems like a lot of hard work, but trust me it only takes 5 minutes and the flavour cannot be beat. The most important thing is to put each ingredient in individually and grind it thoroughly. If you put everything in together it will take forever to grind! And don’t reach for that food processor – this will result in an emulsified sauce that lacks the flavor of doing it by hand.

Serve this sauce mixed into your favourite pasta shape, a grilled piece of tuna or blackened chicken and garlic bread. I like a chopped tomato salad on the side to provide contrast.

Pesto Sauce

Difficulty: Beginner Prep Time 10 mins Total Time 10 mins
Servings: 2



  1. Grind the pine nuts in a pestle and mortar to a smooth paste.

  2. Add the garlic and grind until smooth with no lumps of garlic.

  3. Add the basil leaves slightly torn up. Add the sea salt on top of the leaves. Grind using the coarseness of the salt to help break up the leaves. 

  4. Keep grinding until the leaves are broken down and a relatively smooth paste is formed. This will take about 5 minutes.

  5. Scrape the basil mixture out of the pestle into a small bowl. You can use some olive oil to help get the last remnants out.

  6. Add the olive oil and mix. Add the parmesan and keep adding more olive oil until the desired consistency is achieved (see picture).

  7. Taste for salt – it should be fine, and consider that salted pasta water will be added in the final cook. Set aside for 30 minutes or until you are ready to cook the pasta.

  8. Cook the pasta in salted water according to the packet directions. Reserve a cup of the pasta water.

  9. Drain the pasta. Add the pesto to the empty pasta pan and return to the heat. Add the reserved pasta water to loosen up the pesto.

  10. Cook the pesto for less than one minute and then add the cooked pasta. Stir and then serve immediately with extra freshly grated parmesan.
Keywords: pesto, pasta,
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