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THE KITCHN: How to make a classic pesto

By Emma Christensen, TheKitchn.com on

It's always tempting to eat pesto by the spoonful. It's so very fresh and so very green. And those flavors -- basil, pine nut, Parmesan, garlic and olive oil -- just play so very nicely together. Spread it on sandwiches, toss it with pasta, or, yes, treat yourself a single happy spoonful, but definitely absolutely positively make pesto any chance you get.

Beside how heavenly it tastes, the other thing I love about pesto is that it can be whatever you want it to be. Traditional Italian pesto is, of course, made strictly with basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, garlic and really good olive oil. It's a classic sauce, no contest.

But you can switch out the basil for another handy herb or leafy green, replace the (crazy expensive, if delicious) pine nuts with a different favorite nut, or swap the Parm for Pecorino or Asiago. Use more or less of anything to suit your tastes. Heck, you can even make a lower-fat pesto by replacing some of the olive oil with ricotta cheese!

Bottom line: Green plus nuts plus cheese plus olive oil equals awesome sauce, literally. Whiz it up in a blender and you can't go wrong.

Classic Pesto

Makes about 1 cup.

5-6 ounces (2 healthy bunches or about 6 cups gently packed) basil leaves, or any other green

1/2 cup pine nuts, or any other nut

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, or any other hard cheese

1-2 garlic cloves

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