- Fresh basil. Try buying a $3 live basil plant at Trader Joe’s and using all of it. (Better yet, buy two of them, and use half of each of them, then let them grow back so you can do it again!)
- Parmesan–Reggiano or Romano cheese, grated.
- Pine nuts. They’re often a rip-off but shop around a bit… Trader Joe’s prices are alright, and of course there’s Costco, and Amazon.com. Alternatively, you can do 50/50 pine nut and walnut, or even 100% walnut, to save money (and it still tastes great).
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Garlic cloves, peeled and minced.
As for the exact amounts… If you’re a first timer, find any recipe with those ingredients (like this one) and you’ll probably be fine (and of course you can make adjustments as you see fit, or eventually just wing it). That being said, in terms of the METHOD, I cannot recommend this recipe, “How to make pesto like an Italian grandmother,” enough. The key is NOT melding it all together into a paste in a food processor. (Confession: If you have hand/arm/tendon issues, like me, you may want to cheat and use the food processor for just the pine nuts, and/or just the garlic). The proportions in the grandma recipe are good too.
Note that the food processor-ed pesto in the first link indeed looks like paste, while the grandma’s stuff, and mine, is very textured. The photo above (2012) was taken before we added olive oil, and everything but the garlic was chopped by hand, with the knife in the photo, so it’s definitely possible to do it largely or entirely by hand. And that was our first time, too. So give it a try!