Mom’s Perfect Pesto

I have an unhealthy love affair with basil. My favorite food in the whole world is pesto pasta. Eager to gain ten pounds eating carbs only this summer, I decided that I would grow basil. Otherwise I’d be paying $3 for less than an ounce of fresh basil at the grocery store, and that’s not really my style. Also, I loathe the grocery store. I get scattered and never know which aisle I need to be in, and it takes me an hour to get ten items on my list. But I digress.

I bought some seeds, tossed them in a Jiffy starter kit, and left them there way too long. By the time I moved them to the garden at the end of May, I thought they’d die for sure. Tears ensued, but then I saw some cookie dough ice cream in the freezer and forgot about it. But luckily for me, the girl with the black thumb can actually grow basil. So well, in fact, that I can’t keep up with how much it produces.

So, in an attempt to make a dent in the basil supply, here’s how to make my mom’s perfect pesto.

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 ounces (or more!) of fresh basil. Cut it off the stem, toss it in a colander and rinse with cold water. Pat the little babies dry between two sheets of paper towel.

You’ll also want about 1/2 a cup (for pasta, less if you’re going to use it as a spread) of olive oil, 3 cloves of garlic crushed, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and 3 teaspoons of pine nuts. Another important player: about 1/4 teaspoon salt, but I forgot to put it in this batch until the pictures were taken. Good thing the blog is called “imperfect”.

Let’s talk about that garlic crusher. I think it has another name, something a little more classy, but crusher is fun, don’t ya think? I love this thing – almost as therapeutic as actually chopping the garlic yourself – without the cutting board. I really don’t like cleaning cutting boards.

Ya ready for the making pesto part? Get out your notepads, it’s a complicated process:

Throw everything, minus the cheese, in this handy food processor — it’s no fancy pants Cuisinart, but this $20 puppy works great if you want to save about $150. And whatever you do, please make sure your counters are as spotless, uncluttered and clean as mine are.

Turn the processor on and watch as pesto forms before your eyes. Then add the cheese. I like to add it through that chute at the top because I think that little thing should be used for something.

Note: If you’re planning to freeze the pesto, I’d leave out the cheese. When you’re ready to use it, defrost, stir in the cheese, and throw on your pasta. The problem with this is that in the depths of winter, you’ll have to get out your down coat and boots to trek to the store for some grated Parmesan, but it’ll taste better.

Think you can handle this? Pour this beautiful sauce over a pound of pasta, or toss it on some homemade (who are we kidding, Boboli) pizza crust, use it on sandwiches. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll love it.


  1. I just returned from a trip to Italy, where we visited Cinque Terre, the birthplace of pesto. It was amaaaaaaazing. I will try your recipe tonite with my overgrown herb pots too!

    (I found you on the Nest–can’t wait to keep reading!)

  2. Well, well, well…what do we have here?? Could it be–rubs eyes in awe–the start of a blog! WooHoo!! Your writing is just as funny and clever as I knew it would. And as much as I LOVE basil–I’ve actually never tried pesto. This recipe looks delicious and easy, so I may have to give it a shot. Think a blender will do the trick of a food processor (I’m soooo not a foodie and I hate clutter, so I have the bare minimum for kitchen gadgets.)

  3. Kelsey – Sooo jealous! That’s going on my list of things to do. Let me know how my Norwegian/Irish mom’s pesto compares to the real deal.

    G&D – Totally go for the blender, just get yourself a taste of pesto, girl!

  4. i was hoping i’d find this one on here!! yay, now i can make it!!!