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My all time best Pesto recipes.

Pesto is so easy to make, and can turn a boring bowl of pasta into a Michelin star meal.
The name is derived from the traditional device used to make pesto – the mortar and pestle (mortaio e pestello.)

Generations of Italian mama’s have mastered the art of pesto making and the real method is said to involve a twist of the wrist, gently squeezing the juices from the basil leaves and grinding them with the other ingredients to end up with a smooth, consistency. 

A bitter pesto can be from tearing the leaves and stressing the plant into releasing bitter juices. Blunt blades in a processor result in the same bitter flavour.

 I like to make my pesto using this method  (below) which takes a little more effort and love but time often forces me to use the quicker method which is - the food processor which still gives a very close result and is a quick and easy tool to use when time is of the essence. I am afraid – the most used piece of equipment in my kitchen….

Here are a few of my favorites to toss into a home-made linguine, or to add to chicken or home-made burgers.

Use the same method for all the pesto recipes: (pesto does not have to be ground to a pulp and often finely chopped pestos have a different flavour.)


  1.  Using a very sharp knife cut the basil (or other) leaves into pieces and then add to the mortar and pestle. Using a turning/squeezing motion with your wrist, gently crush the leaves with the pine nuts, garlic, and salt. (If your knife blade is not sharp the basil will blacken so work quickly.)
  2. Slowly add the oil and parmesan cheese and grind until all is combined. Taste the pesto and add salt to taste if it needs more. Add the lemon juice and pepper to taste before serving.

NOTE 1: a similar result can be achieved by using a food processor. Some cooks prefer the hand cut/ground method as it gives a slightly chunkier end result and the cook can develop the pesto to look and taste as he or she prefers.

NOTE 2: I like to use half Pecorino and half Parmesan cheese. Or substitute one for the other.

NOTE 3: Add 1 Tablespoon of soft salted butter at the end for a creamier, decadent finish.

NOTE 4: If all else fails just order your pesto already made and the best in the country from Pesto Princess. or Earth Mother – Glenwood Durban

Basil Pesto:

2 cups (compressed) fresh basil leaves (no stalks)

½  cup of toasted pine nuts (cashews, macadamia, or almond are all European nuts)

1 -2  cloves fresh garlic

Maldon salt (add one first and taste adding a little at a time until the flavours develop

1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese/ Pecorina cheese or Feta

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice


Walnut and Rocket Pesto

2 cups (compressed) rocket (no stalks)

1/2 cup toasted walnuts

1-2  cloves of garlic

Maldon salt(taste all the time while adding)

1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil

½ cup Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice


Sundried Tomato Pesto

2 cups (compressed) sundried tomatoes (drained- preferably the soft bottled ones)

2 cloves of garlic

1 cup (compressed) fresh basil leaves (no stalks)

½ cup toasted pine nuts

Maldon salt (taste as you go)

1/2  to 3/4 cup olive oil

½ cup Parmesan cheese

Flat leaf Parsley and Feta Pesto

2 cups (compressed) flat leafed parsley (no stalks)

½ cup toasted walnuts

1-2 cloves garlic

 Maldon salt (taste as you go – Feta is salty so TASTE before adding salt)

1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil

1/2  cup Feta cheese

1/2 teaspoon oregano (dried variety)


Pallet of Pesto ideas by Doris from Earth Mother

Mascarpone Dip

-  Make a basic Basil Pesto and add 1/2 cup of Mascarpone cheese for a wonderfully creamy dip.

Coriander Pesto:

2 cups of Coriander leaves stalks and roots

1/2 cup (125ml) Organic Sunflower oil

1 large clove of garlic

1/4 cup of Cashew Nuts

Himalayan Crystal Salt to taste

Blend together…Done!

Mezze lunch:

- Fresh sour dough bread

- Two or three varieties of pesto

- Bowl of olives

- Bowl of danish feta

- Bowl of dehydrated tomatoes (dry overnight at 50OC in your oven – brush tomatoes first with a little olive oil)

-Bowl of roasted Egg plant (slice, brush with olive oil, salt and sprinkle with finely chopped fresh rosemary- bake at 180 oC for 30-40 minutes until soft)

- Bowl of roasted peppers (slice  one red onion, 1 green, 2 yellow, and  2 red peppers into thin strips – drizzle with olive oil and salt and roast at 180 0C for 30 – 40 minutes until soft.)

- Chopped chillies (jalepeno or pepper dews)

- Assorted cured meats.

Doris’s Mazavaroo

1 cup garlic

1 cup of red and green chillis mixed

1 cup of peeled fresh ginger

1 cup of organic sunflower oil

Himalayan Crystal salt – 1-2 teaspoons (or Maldon)

Blend – Done!

(Add 1 Tablespoon of apricot Jam for a sweet Mazavaroo. )

Toasted cheese and Mazavaroo sandwich.

- add the sweet Mazavaroo to your next toasted sarmie! To die for.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Thanks for the valuable information regarding your Pesto’s. I thoroughly enjoyed the course on saturday and definitely thought the Basil Pesto was by far the best. I will make the Mazavaroo as soon as red chillies appear.

    This week I am going to make your Sundried Tomato Pesto -

    September 12, 2011

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