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perfectly green basil pesto

I used to think that I liked pesto until I tried to make it myself. No matter what recipe I tried the pesto turned brown very soon after it was made and didn’t taste right. Gross. And using all those pricey ingredients only to have an inedible result made me give up trying to make pesto at home. But that was before I discovered the secret of perfectly green basil pesto: if you blanch it it will stay green.

Take the extra step of blanching the basil, immersing it in an ice bath, wringing out the excess liquid, and removing the stems* before putting it in the food processor. Now your homemade pesto will both retain the bright green color and taste fresh like it’s supposed to!

basil in ice water

Here are some other tips

  1. Forget about using nuts, especially piƱon nuts unless it is a very special occasion. They are just too expensive.
  2. If you want to save a little more money, use pecorino instead of parmesan. It’s less expensive but still has the right flavor note.
  3. Adjust the amount of olive oil to fit your own taste. There’s no need to use more than you like in an attempt to keep the pesto green.

Perfectly Green Basil Pesto
Yield: About 1 1/8 cups


4 oz fresh basil, washed
about 1 cup of grated parmesan or pecorino
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
a couple of dashes of crushed red pepper
freshly ground black pepper to taste
sea salt to taste (add last after tasting because the cheese adds saltiness)


  1. Bring a pot of water to a low simmer and immerse the basil for 30 seconds or so. Remove basil from hot water and immediately immerse in an ice bath for about 2 minutes.
  2. Remove the basil from the ice bath, gently wring out the water from the leaves and remove the stems. Place the leaves in the food processor and add all ingredients except the olive oil.
  3. Turn on the food processor and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Adjust the quantity as you like.
  4. Use immediately or let it sit for a few hours for maximum flavor development. It will keep well in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days but it never lasts that long around here.

*I’ve read that the stems can also cause your pesto to turn brown.

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