Handmade Pesto

Please forgive me for not having updated at all yet this week. I have honestly just been running on fumes and barely able to stay awake during the course of the day – there was just no way for me to stay awake long enough to edit photos and write up recipes after a full day of work. What could possibly have taken such a toll on me, you might ask? Well, on Sunday night, Kramer and I hosted a small get together in our new apartment for the Oscars! It was a lot of fun, and together, Kramer and I made a ton of food, most of which will eventually be featured on this site, so I don’t want to give too much away! It was a big success, though, and I’m fairly certain that everyone in attendance had a good time. Kramer had a nicely stocked bar area set up, and we made fun party food like chorizo and bacon macaroni and cheese (a bit of a twist on one of my favorite recipes) and my famous Magnolia Bakery banana pudding (featured in a beautiful trifle dish that my Aunt Donna gave to me). You can see a bit of our new apartment in this adorable photo of my sister-in-law Rachel and her boyfriend, Eric, and most importantly, you can check out a quick view of my enormous (for Brooklyn) kitchen in this photo of Kramer and our friend, Tom. Just look at all of that counter space! Oooo ahhhh. You can also check it out in this photo of Kramer worrying about how we were going to get all of the food hot and ready in time for the party. We didn’t get much sleep that night, as you might imagine, and as I get older, it’s getting harder and harder to overcome fatigue. I don’t know how I went to class and then work on less than 5 hours of sleep only a few short years ago – I’m definitely finding out the hard way how quickly the human body ages. Oh well – to be young and living in New York City, right? I need to keep reminding myself of that when I feel like I am running out of steam.

This pesto was made for some delicious sandwiches (recipe to follow in a few days) that Kramer and I made for our party. I had never made pesto before, but when I saw the post over on 101 Cookbooks, it looked absolutely irresistible. The recipe stresses that this is exactly how an Italian grandmother would make pesto, and I believe it! All of the ingredients are painstakingly minced together by hand – there is no need for a food processor or a blender. You do, however, need a very sharp knife. I used my 7-inch Shun chef’s knife, but any very sharp knife will do. If you do not have a sharp knife, then this is the perfect excuse to go out and splurge on one – it will pay for itself over and over again as you effortlessly slice through anything on your chopping block, this pesto included. It took me about 25-30 minutes in total to make what amounted to about 1/2 cup of pesto (I doubled the recipe, although this is not reflected in the recipe below), but it was so worth it. I cannot adequately describe the wonder that is this pesto. I was never a huge fan of pesto until I made this one in particular. Because everything is done by hand, the flavors of the fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, and Parmesan can shine through. When you make pesto in a blender, the flavors can often become muddled as they are carelessly pureed together into an unrecognizable mush. Instead, in this pesto, all of the ingredients offer a different texture, all of which come together to dance on your tongue and brighten up whatever you decide to use it in. Not only did we put it on sandwiches, but we also used it as a bruschetta topping as we worked our way through our party leftovers. The flavors in this pesto only develop after 24 hours in the fridge, but it is unbelievably good on the same day that you make it, too. There is no added salt or pepper, just a bit of olive oil to bring it all together. I cannot recommend this pesto enough, and I promise once you try it, you’re going to want to make pesto every week.

Handmade Pesto
You don’t need much in the way of ingredients, just some fresh basil, garlic, nice Parmesan, olive oil, and a handful or two of raw pine nuts.

Handmade Pesto
Start by finely mincing all of your garlic – don’t go crazy yet, there’s a lot of mincing ahead of you!

Handmade Pesto
Roughly chiffonade (thinly slice) a handful of basil. This is easily done by loosely rolling a bunch of basil leaves up like a scroll, then slicing.

Handmade Pesto
Add the basil to the garlic and start chopping away with even pressure, to incorporate the two ingredients together.

Handmade Pesto
Chiffonade another bunch of basil and start chopping away again, incorporating it into the other garlic and basil pile.

Handmade Pesto
Once you have used up all of your basil, add in a handful of pine nuts.

Handmade Pesto
Just keep on chopping. I like to chop, chop, chop, then push everything to the side together, and chop again, going the opposite direction that I was going before, until everything is evenly minced.

Handmade Pesto
Now grab your Parmesan (I was having a party, so I bought a lot of Parmesan – enough for the recipe and for the chef to enjoy while working).

Handmade Pesto
Add half of the Parmesan, continue to incorporate it into the pesto, then add the rest and mince away.

Handmade PestoHandmade Pesto
When you are finished, you should be able to pack it all up (without much effort) into a compressed ball.

Handmade Pesto
Pour some olive oil over it in a small bowl and cover, if you like, or use right away. I found that the pesto kept very well, covered in olive oil, in the fridge in a small, air tight container for 4 days – I would even go as far as to say that it was better the next day. I also put it on some sandwiches that I made on one day and ate the next, and it was absolutely wonderful.

Handmade Pesto
Whether you use this on some pasta, as a topping for bruschetta, or on a sandwich, this pesto is incredible and certainly better than something you would make in a food processor or a blender.

Handmade Pesto
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: ¼ cup pesto
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large bunch of basil, leaves only, washed and patted dry (about 1.5-2 ounces, or 2 lightly packed cups)
  • one small handful of raw pine nuts (about 2-3 tablespoons)
  • 1 loosely packed cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (if you are looking to use pre-grated Parmesan, you might as well just buy your pesto because there is no point in making it yourself if you are not using fresh ingredients)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Peel and roughly mince all of your garlic. Starting with a small portion of your basil leaves, place one on top of the other, roll them up, and slice into thin strips (otherwise known as a chiffonade), then add it to the garlic and start to chop, incorporating the basil fully into the garlic. Grab some more leaves, chiffonade, and add them to the garlic and basil. Continue doing this until you run out of basil and the garlic and herbs are very well minced.
  2. Sprinkle your pine nuts over the garlic and basil. I used a bit more pine nuts, but that's because I love them and it was hard for me not to eat the whole container of them while I was working. Start to mince some more, incorporating the pine nuts into the garlic and basil. Pine nuts are soft, like cashews, so they will be easy to chop.
  3. When the pine nuts are incorporated, add in half of your Parmesan. Continue chopping, and when incorporated, add in the rest of the Parmesan and chop until everything is very, very, very finely minced. When you are done, you will be able to easily form the pesto into a "loaf" or a ball, as I did. After shaping the pesto, place it in a bowl or container and pour 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil over it. The pesto can stay like this, in an air tight container, until you are ready to use it, for up to 4 days. You can also use it in pasta, as a spread for sandwiches, or as a bruschetta topping. It is delicious on almost anything, and doing it by hand instead of using a food processor allows for lots of great textures and flavors from all of the fresh ingredients.


51 Responses

  1. The food at your party looks amazing! I also can’t believe what a nice kitchen you got in NY. Looks like you really ended up with a fantastic apartment!

  2. Vanilla says:

    Agreed! Your apartment is very beautiful! And thank you for the recipe! I always wanted to know how to make Pesto.. We used to put it on our pizza :)

    • Sydney says:

      @Vanilla: Thank you so much! I hadn’t even thought of pizza – I’m thinking of making it some time soon, and I think I will definitely do that. :)

      @Michelle: Thank you! My last kitchen was a disaster – I didn’t even want people over to my apartment because I was so embarrassed of the place. I would definitely get a Shun – I love mine and the Japanese really know how to make a sturdy, sharp, and light knife. Henkel is good, too, but they are a bit heavier. I know that Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table have them on display, so you can go in and hold them to see how they fit in your hand. The people who work there are also very knowledgeable and helpful when it comes to buying knives. I bought mine online, but I went in to talk to them about what I should buy and it really made a difference!

      @Emily: Thank you – I definitely appreciate the kitchen every single day. I also have a crappy food processor, so I avoid it at all costs!

  3. Michelle says:

    That’s a great amount of kitchen space, especially for NYC! I know the perils of a manhattan kitchen. Mine is so narrow that my refrigerator door hit the other side of the kitchen when it’s fully open, haha. You definitely lucked out!

    This pesto looks great. I like that it doesn’t require a food processor. Any tips on what type of knife to buy? I’m clueless when it comes to that sort of thing.

  4. Emily D. says:

    As someone who suffers the pains of tiny-apartment-kitchen (without the added benefit of living in the city), your kitchen is gigantic and beautiful to me!
    And, I’m definitely going to have to try out this pesto recipe sometime soon. I’ve always wanted to make it, but my food processor is so junky I like to avoid it whenever possible.

  5. Anthony says:

    Wow, for New York, that kitchen is huge. Better be careful, or the landlord might try to rent it out as a single. 😉

    Regarding the pesto, I’ve often found pine nuts to be quite pricey. Shelled, unsalted pistachios make a very good (and less expensive) substitute.

  6. Jen T says:

    Holy crap, your kitchen rocks! I am seriously, hard-core jealous. And the picture of Kramer contemplating everything almost made me laugh out loud. This is a really cool recipe, too, I might have to try it sometime and see if the pesto-crazed boyfriend notices a difference/has a preference when compared to our usual recipe.

    • Sydney says:

      @Jen T: Thank you so much! :) I’m sure he would love it.

      @Dana: I completely agree, and thank you!

      @Kimberly: Thank you! I definitely think holding back a bit on the oil makes the pesto shine.

      @Michelle: Thanks for stopping by!

      @Nina: Aw, thanks! That means a lot coming from a great photographer such as yourself!

  7. Dana says:

    I love that this pesto is chopped and not semi-liquified in a blender or food processor. Texture is so important for a pesto.

    Awesome kitchen, by the way!

  8. this looks fantastic! I love the photos in this post. when i need a little bit of presto i make it on the board also it comes out so rustic and delicious without crazy amounts of oil. Yummy

  9. MichellePC says:

    There is nothing like homemade pesto! I’ve never made handmade before, but this looks beautiful, with wonderful texture. Thanks for the recipe!

  10. Nina says:

    Ohhhh, Sydney does this ever look sensational. Cannot WAIT to make this! Gorgeous photos, btw.

  11. Tina from Pa says:

    WOW! What a beatiful apartment ! Looks like a fun time! Can not wait to see the up coming recipes! I’m always looking for new and fun party ideas. Love the Pesto recipe, I used to have a garden in my yard ,too much work for me , so now I only have a planter of herbs, so I’ll be making this when the basil is ready. Have a great weekend ,hope you get some much needed rest!

  12. Kim says:

    You can freeze leftover pesto very successfully. I make loads of it in the summer and freeze it in ice cube trays. Just pop a few out, thaw, add to pasta, and it’s summer all over again. That all depends, of course, on if you have any pesto left over! Yours looks fabulous. I am a sucker for the aroma a fresh pesto.

  13. Dee D. says:

    That looks wonderful! I’ve always wanted to make pesto from scratch! Beautiful photos too :)

  14. Ben says:

    so. jealous. of. that. kitchen!

    oh and… i so need to score an invite to one of these parties… looks awesome.

    • Sydney says:

      @Tina: Thank you very much! I am jealous of your planter – I would die for one! I’m afraid it would blow off of my tiny balcony and onto the street, though. Oh well, I can dream!

      @Kim: I’m planning to make more this weekend and I will certainly do this – thanks for letting me know how well it works. :)

      @Dee D: Thank you muchly!

      @Ben: Thank you so much, and next time you’re in NY, let me know! 😉

      @John: Thank you! I’m absolutely going to toast my pine nuts next time, I bet it is delicious!

      @Sarah: It’s actually red, but it oddly looks kind of pink in that photo. Strange!

      @Jen: Thank you so much! Homemade focaccia is pretty impressive to me – I’ve certainly never made it before! I love James Franco, so he can do no wrong in my eyes, but I definitely see why people would say that.

  15. John says:

    Sydney, love the recipe. A suggestion: I’ve been making my own pesto for many years. Ingredients basically the same, but I toast my pine nuts very lightly. Rather than chopping, I make it with a mortar and pestle. Builds strong arms and yields a very silky texture. Primo cheese and fine olive oil are a must! And indeed, pine nuts have become VERY expensive, the local Safeway stores here in Northern Cali stopped carrying them for awhile because they went to over $25 a pound! (found them for much much less in of all places, the local Asian grocery, Market 99.)

  16. Sarah says:

    Do I spy a hot pink mixer?!?!

    Beautiful kitchen! Great recipe, as always!

  17. Jen says:

    Sydney, this is amazing! You always end up posting recipes I need. I’ve always wanted to make pesto but have been discouraged because I don’t own a food processor so this is perfect.

    Also, I love that you had an Oscars party! I had one too but the food wasn’t as impressive, lol. I made chocolate cake and some pizza using homemade focaccia bread. How did you enjoy the show? I was a little disappointed with the hosting -especially since I love Anne and James- but I think it went okay. A little bit of a downgrade from Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin last year though.

    Your new apartment looks beautiful! I especially love the framed movie posters and your kitchen!

  18. Casey says:

    Your kitchen looks awesome!! This pesto looks fantastic too. a few months ago my husband and I made a pesto very similar to this one, and it was delicious. But the next day we developed this terrible metallic taste! I think we got bad pine nuts!! This terrible metallic taste lasted more than a week and made anything we ate/drank taste awful. So we’ve started using walnut in our pesto recipes to avoid that again. I love the pistachio idea!

    • Sydney says:

      @Casey: Thank you! I’m sorry about the pine nuts – I’ve heard of people having that problem, like so many do with cilantro. I think pistachios would be awesome, personally.

      @Bala: Thank you!

      @Envierecipes: I don’t know if I could do whipped cream by hand – I don’t think I’m strong enough! I bet it’s delicious, though.

      @Michelle: I wish I could grow basil on my deck – I am quite jealous! :)

      @Bobbi Jo: You probably need to mince it further, or maybe add more olive oil. You will need to press it together with your hands, but once you do that, it should stay together.

  19. Bala says:

    Interesting recipe… mouth-watering. I want to prepare it immediately.

  20. envierecipes says:

    Can’t wait to try this…I find that everything tastes better to me when it is “hand made”. Hand whipped cream, for example. Good exercise too and less mess to clean up really. Thanks for the recipe.

  21. Michelle says:

    Sounds like a great evening! And the pesto looks excellent. Can’t wait to grow basil on my deck again. Bring on the warm weather!

  22. Bobbi Jo says:

    If you can’t really pick the ball up what do you have too much of/not enough of?

  23. Katie says:

    Yum. It’s always such a fitting introductory word to comments on this site! I love pesto almost more than I love marinara sauce (which is A LOT)! Pesto is such a wonderful example that you can get a delicious result from simple ingredients and not much work. (Which is how cooking should be!) Thanks for the recipe, adding it to my arsenal!

    • Sydney says:

      @Katie: I agree whole-heartedly. I’m a big pesto lover, too, especially now – my husband, though, is still all about marinara. It’s great for some diversity, though!

  24. Ivana says:

    Wow! what great colour on that pesto – I can’t wait to try! My brother has a nut allergy though, so can you recommend any alternatives for the pine nuts?

    • Sydney says:

      Ivana: Is he allergic to all nuts? Pistachios or chestnuts might work well, or macadamia nuts. I don’t know a lot about nut allergies, unfortunately. You could probably just omit them entirely, since there aren’t that many used.

  25. Stacy says:

    Yum – that pesto looks amazing and I can’t wait to make it! We live on pesto during the summer. My basil has slowly taken over an entire bed as it grows back year after year – and I am happy to oblige it! I was working in my garden today (yea for Spring Break) and I noticed the first little bits of basil peeking through the soil. I am so looking forward to trying this recipe as soon as it is in full bloom. We had your sausage and peppers a few nights again – thanks for another winner!

    • Sydney says:

      Stacy: I’m so jealous that you can grow basil! Maybe I will be able to one day, but it’s kind of impossible in NYC. I hope that you love this pesto as much as you loved the sausage and peppers! :)

  26. Stacy says:

    Oops…a few nights “ago” would be what I meant!

  27. Talathia says:

    So, I know this was about pesto, and believe me, I will put it to use! However, my fiance’s favorite foods are chorizo, mac n cheese, and bacon…it’s meant to be. His birthday is coming up and it would be awesome to make some for him for his bday dinner.

    I went to the link for the bacon mac n cheese. For the version you mention here did you just add the chorizo? Any other special/needed instructions?

    • Sydney says:

      Talathia: I just added the chorizo in (since I used smoked chorizo, it was already cooked – you can also use ground chorizo and cook it along with the bacon in the beginning) and used a smokey cheddar cheese and a white cheddar cheese instead of French cheeses, since I wanted a more manly, meaty mac n’ cheese. Happy Birthday to your fiancee! He’s quite lucky to have a lady cooking such delicious food for him!

  28. Corinne says:

    I made this last night and i love the fact that it wasn’t thrown into the food processor! it turned out so good, i cant stop eating it today. kudos!

  29. Jess says:

    Is this the mysterious green stuff in my pasta at school?! Well yours looks much more appetizing than school’s, obviously. Now I’ve got to try it! I totally dig all the pictures too, it makes me feel like I could actually do it!

  30. […] wanted. If you don’t have a food processor, or would just prefer to go a more authentic route Crepes of Wrath posted a handmade pesto recipe. I have yet to try it, but one of these days I will! Probably once I start growing my own basil to […]

  31. Maria says:

    Hi Sydney! I just came from the grocery and bought ingredients to make this wonderful pesto recipe that I’m making for my boyfriend tonight. I hope the recipe is more than enough for the both of us! I bought fettuccine to go with it :) I loooove your blog! I hope you have more desserts that doesn’t require baking because obviously, I don’t own an oven! Haha :)

  32. […] eat it.  Surprisingly, it didn’t suck and I was actually quite proud of myself.  I used this exact recipe from a cooking blog called Crepes of Wrath that I really like.  Usually, pesto is made in a food […]

  33. […] Pesto Recipe adapted from The Crepes of Wrath. This recipe takes quite a bit of chopping, but it is totally worth the effort. Try adding to your […]

  34. […] is one of the last items that I will be sharing with you from the Oscar party that we had in February. I’ve honestly been so busy that it’s taken me this long to go […]

  35. […] wild ramp pesto and a side of broccoli rabe, but as ramps aren’t quite in season anymore, a classic pesto would be just as good. This dish is for Tessa, and I hope that I get to come home again soon so […]

  36. […] were made for our Oscar Party that I told you about last week, and I think that they were my favorite thing that we made as a […]

Leave a Reply

©2022 The Crepes of Wrath