I’ve not eaten a lot of pesto sauce by choice simply because I thought it was boring. I love fresh basil, but for some reason, the nutty herbal sauce has often fallen short for me. Determined to make a version that levels up, I think this pesto recipe does the job! By adding lemon and red pepper, my version adds a layer of excitement to the nutty blend that coats pasta du jour.
While not directly pesto, the ancient Romans enjoyed a similar paste called “moretum,” made with herbs, cheese, olive oil, and sometimes pine nuts.
This is by no means an authentic Italian recipe. I have been told point blank that Northern Italians do not add garlic to their pesto sauce at all, so I know that adding lemon, extra garlic, and red pepper would be considered highly offensive. Shhh – We’ll just keep it our little secret and enjoy this flavorful combination.
You’ll need a food processor to make this sauce, or a bullet-style blender works like a charm.
You will need:
- ⅓ cup pine nuts
- 4 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- One teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Juice from one lemon
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Add all of the ingredients to your blender and pulse the mixture until it is of a smooth consistency, but not obliterated. I like to see little bits of basil and nuts in my pesto sauce. If you find this is too chunky, add a tablespoon of water to thin.
You can make this sauce in advance, but be sure to add a little oil on the top of the sauce so it doesn’t oxidize in the refrigerator. I find that the lemon juice also helps maintain the bright green color. This pesto sauce also freezes well, but fresh is always best!