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Basil and parsley pesto

The classic Italian pesto alla Genovese is made with basil and pine nuts, and extremely fine it is too. But the idea can be adapted to other herbs, and other nuts, as you'll see here. Nikki particularly likes the combination of basil and parsley, though you can use parsley alone. You can also use mint in a pesto, or stronger herbs, such as sage or thyme, though these are best combined with parsley so they don't overpower the sauce. As well as being excellent with pasta, pestos make a superb finishing touch to soups. They are also good with steak or chicken, delicious smeared over roasted vegetables and lovely as a simple dip with crudités.


First toast the pine nuts: put them in a dry frying pan and toast over a medium heat for a few minutes, tossing frequently, until golden brown.

Remove them from the pan immediately, so they don't burn, and leave to cool.

Put the toasted nuts into a food processor, along with the basil, parsley, garlic, Parmesan and lemon zest.

Blitz to a paste.

Then, with the motor running, slowly pour in the extra virgin olive oil until you have a thick, sloppy purée.

Scrape the pesto into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and add a good squeeze of lemon juice to taste.

This pesto will keep in a jar in the fridge for a few days.


Walnut and wild garlic pesto. Replace the pine nuts with walnuts, lightly toasted in an oven preheated to 180°C/Gas mark 4 for 5-8 minutes.

Replace the basil and parsley with roughly chopped wild garlic leaves and stems.

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  • 50g pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 30g bunch of basil, leaves only
  • 30g bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves only
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
  • 35g Parmesan, finely grated
  • Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
  • 100-150ml extra virgin olive oil
  • A good squeeze of lemon juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

This recipe is taken from...

River Cottage Herbs Handbook