Fancy vs Lazy Recipe: Pesto

Fancy Pesto


2 cups young, small Genovese basil leaves from a farmer’s market

½ cup extra virgin olive oil imported from Italy

3 garlic cloves from a fresh bulb, peeled just before making the pesto

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ cup pine nuts imported from Sicily

½ cup high-quality Parmigiano Reggiano cheese imported from Italy that you have only just grated


  1. Pluck the basil leaves from the stems and throw the stems away. Wash the leaves in cold water. Dry them thoroughly by placing them between two layers of paper towel and pressing gently.


  1. Place the garlic cloves and a pinch of salt in a mortar and crush them with a pestle. Add the basil leaves and crush with light, circular movements of the pestle. Add the pine nuts, cheese, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and continue to pound the mixture, adding olive oil from time to time, until a creamy paste is formed.


  1. Once this process is started, you must finish making the pesto within 30 minutes or the basil will darken and the sauce will be ruined.


  1. Toss with pasta and serve immediately. Pesto will not keep, so you must eat it all right away.


Servings: enough pesto to adequately cover 6-8 portions of pasta.


Prep time: 30 minutes of constant work (plus you’ll need to go out and get yourself a mortar and pestle, because if you’re reading this blog, I’m betting you don’t have one already).


Overall appropriateness for Lazy Chefs: You Have Got To Be Kidding. Sorry, Fancy Pesto—you lost me at “mortar and pestle.”




Lazy Pesto



2 cups basil leaves, which you can get in the produce section of your supermarket

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup shredded parmesan cheese*


*the shredded stuff tastes better in the sauce than the grated stuff, so it’s definitely worth getting the shredded.


You might notice that I didn’t list pine nuts. Pesto traditionally has pine nuts, but they’re expensive and add a lot of calories and fat without (I find) adding a lot of flavor, so I leave them out.



  1. Rinse the basil leaves, then pull the leaves off the stems and throw the stems away. I never bother to dry them, which means that there’s a little water in the sauce. That’s a big no-no for Real Chefs, but an acceptable compromise for Lazy Chefs.


  1. I also once tried leaving the leaves on the stems and just putting the whole kit and caboodle in the food processor, but that didn’t turn out well. Definitely take the time to pull the leaves off.


  1. Put the garlic in a food processor (or a blender if you don’t have a food processor) and pulse until the garlic is chopped up. Some recipes call for you to chop the garlic before putting it in the food processor. That’s crazy talk. The blades in the food processor chop up the garlic just fine.


  1. Add the basil leaves and salt and run the food processor until all the leaves have been chopped up.


  1. Add the cheese and pulse a few times.


  1. Now scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the olive oil. Pulse the food processor a few more times until everything is well blended.


  1. You can now use the sauce on pasta, bread, rice, etc. It tastes best within a day or two of making it (but I’ve also refrigerated mine for most of a week).


  1. This recipe makes a pretty dry sauce. You can add more olive oil to make the sauce creamier if you want; just be aware that olive oil has 119 calories and 13.5 grams of fat per tablespoon and make sure you pay attention to how much you’re using.


Servings: a bunch


Prep time: 10ish minutes. The biggest chunk of time will be pulling the basil leaves off the stems, and then getting all the sauce out of your food processor.


Overall appropriateness for Lazy Chefs: Good! Find someone else to pull the basil leaves off the stems and you can upgrade the recipe to Great.