Pesto is native to the Italian region of Liguria. The very name “pesto” comes from the Italian verb “pestare”, which means “to crush” – a reference to the traditional method of preparation with a mortar and pestle.
The main difference in this pesto, of course, is its base – purple basil. Compared to green basil, purple basil has a slightly sharper and less minty flavor, giving the sauce a richer depth.
Unlike other pesto recipes, this one I suggest trying to make in a mortar. Not that there’s any sacred meaning to this, I just wanted to make sure that all or virtually all of the cooking methods were
to be covered on my blog.
⏱ Cooking time — 15 minutes overall. Includes 15 minutes of preparation and cooking + 0 minutes unattended.
For 4 servings:
- 60 g (2 ⅛ oz) purple basil
- 50 g (1 ¾ oz) parmesan cheese
- 65 g (2 ⅖ oz) pine nuts
- 1-2 garlic cloves
- 120 ml (8 ⅛ tbsp.) extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Roasting pine nuts
Roast 65 g (2 ⅖ oz) pine nuts until golden in a dry frying pan over medium heat. Roast for about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Preparing the pesto base
Mash 1-2 cloves of garlic in a mortar to a paste.
Add 60 g (2 ⅛ oz) of purple basil leaves to the mortar and mash them thoroughly.
Add the roasted pine nuts and mash them together with the basil.
Adding cheese and butter. Final cooking.
Grate 50 g (1 ¾ oz) of Parmesan cheese directly into the mortar.
Pour in ⅕-⅙ part of the olive oil and mix well.
Continue adding olive oil in small increments, mixing well each time, until the pesto reaches the desired consistency. You may need less oil than listed in the ingredients section.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and mix well again.
Can I use green basil instead of purple basil?
Yes, you can use green basil if purple basil is unavailable. The flavor will be slightly different, but it will still produce a delicious pesto.
What can I use instead of pine nuts?
You can substitute pine nuts with walnuts, almonds, or cashews for a different flavor.
Can I use pre-ground Parmesan cheese?
It’s best to use freshly grated Parmesan for optimal flavor, but pre-ground Parmesan can also be used if needed.
How long can I store the pesto in the refrigerator?
The pesto can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Ensure that it’s covered with a layer of olive oil to maintain freshness.
Can this pesto be frozen?
Yes, you can freeze the pesto in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Consider freezing in ice cube trays for easy portioning.
Can I add other herbs to the pesto?
Absolutely! Feel free to experiment by adding parsley, cilantro, or any other fresh herbs of your choice.
What can I serve the pesto with?
Purple pesto can be served with pasta, spread on sandwiches, drizzled on salads, or used as a dip for bread and vegetables.
Can I make this recipe vegan?
Yes, replace Parmesan cheese with nutritional yeast or vegan Parmesan to make this pesto vegan.
Can I use garlic powder instead of fresh garlic?
Fresh garlic is recommended for its vibrant flavor, but you can use garlic powder as a substitute if necessary. Adjust the quantity to taste.
Is it essential to toast the pine nuts?
Toasting pine nuts enhances their flavor, but you can use raw pine nuts if you prefer or are short on time.
Can this pesto be used as a pizza sauce?
Absolutely! This pesto can be a flavorful alternative to traditional tomato-based pizza sauce.
Can I use this pesto as a marinade?
Yes, purple pesto can be a great marinade for meats, poultry, or vegetables, providing a rich, herby flavor.
Can I add chili flakes to make it spicy?
Definitely! Add chili flakes to taste if you prefer a spicy kick to your pesto.
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Purple Pesto in a Mortar
- 60 g purple basil
- 50 g parmesan cheese
- 65 g pine nuts
- 1-2 garlic cloves
- 120 ml olive oil extra virgin
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- Roast the pine nuts for about 4 minutes until golden in a dry frying pan over medium heat and set aside.
- In a mortar, mash the garlic, add the basil and nuts. Mash everything together.
- Grate the cheese and add to the mortar. Gradually add the olive oil to the contents of the mortar, mixing until the desired consistency is reached. Season to taste with salt and pepper and mix well.