Pesto Recipe


  • 2 cups (50g) Fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) Olive oil
  • 1/3 cup (50g) Pine nuts (can substitute with walnuts or almonds)
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 cup (50g) Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional: Lemon juice or zest for extra zing


  1. Blend Basil and Nuts: In a food processor, combine the basil leaves and pine nuts. Pulse until coarsely chopped.
    • Basil: The main flavor component of pesto. Chopping it releases essential oils, which carry the flavor.
    • Pine Nuts: Add a creamy texture and nutty flavor. Substituting with other nuts can alter the flavor profile slightly.
  2. Add Garlic and Cheese: Add the garlic and Parmesan cheese to the food processor. Pulse until everything is finely chopped and well combined.
    • Garlic: Adds a pungent, sharp taste.
    • Parmesan Cheese: Contributes a salty, umami flavor and helps bind the pesto.
  3. Emulsify with Olive Oil: With the processor running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream until the pesto comes together in a thick paste.
    • Olive Oil: Acts as the liquid base of the pesto, carrying flavors and creating a smooth consistency. The gradual addition helps to emulsify the mixture, ensuring that the oil doesn’t separate.
  4. Season: Add salt and pepper to taste, and lemon juice or zest if using. Pulse a few times to mix.
    • Seasoning: Enhances the overall flavor profile. Lemon can add a bright, acidic counterpoint to the rich, herbaceous pesto.
  5. Use or Store: Use the pesto immediately, or store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator with a layer of olive oil on top to preserve freshness.

Scientific Explanations

  • Chopping and Blending: The process of chopping the basil and other ingredients in a food processor helps to release their essential oils and flavors more effectively than chopping by hand. This mechanical action breaks down cell walls, releasing flavor compounds.
  • Emulsification: Slowly adding olive oil while the processor is running creates an emulsion. This process disperses the oil into tiny droplets that are suspended throughout the mixture, resulting in a cohesive and creamy texture.
  • Flavor Compounds in Ingredients: Each ingredient in pesto contributes its unique flavor compounds:
    • Basil: Contains volatile oils like linalool and estragole, which give it a sweet, herbaceous aroma.
    • Garlic: Contains allicin, which has a strong aroma and is activated when chopped or crushed.
    • Cheese: Adds umami flavor due to glutamates.
    • Nuts: Contain fats and oils that contribute to the creamy texture and nutty taste.
  • Preservation with Olive Oil: Covering pesto with a layer of olive oil helps to prevent oxidation and preserve its vibrant green color. The oil creates a barrier between the pesto and air, reducing exposure to oxygen which can lead to browning and flavor loss.

This pesto recipe showcases how simple ingredients can be transformed into a rich, flavorful sauce through processes like emulsification and the release of essential oils and flavors. The balance of herbaceous, nutty, and umami elements makes it a versatile and delightful addition to a variety of dishes.

John Nguyen
John Nguyen
Articles: 103

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