Classic Pesto with Grilled Bread

Something about starting the school year gives me a distinct and unquenchable desire to take a vacation.  It must have something to do with the impending loss of freedom and gain of anxiety (not to mention those cruel early morning wake-ups).


Today was my last day of freedom and I chose to spend it in the completion of summer chores and enjoyment of leisurely activities. Balance, right? It was a busy day.


1. Two morning hours on the patio reading and coffee drinking (check)

2. Weeding and lilac trimming (check)

3. Laundry/ironing (not complete but will get me through the week)

4. Wash last of 7 windows and blinds (not check, will have to wait)

5. Library and bank (check)

5. Duck visiting, more reading (check)

6. Make pesto (check)

7. Write this here blog post (workin’ on it)


Classic Basil Pesto

Makes one cup. Adapted from Giada de Laurentis.

Even though I’ve been following this recipe for years, my early summer attempts at pesto-making were bitter and unpleasant failures.  I thought I was cool, that I didn’t need to check the recipe.  I’m a foodie I told myself. I know what’s in pesto. Blah, blah, blah.

I read recently that if you make a recipe often, you tend to wing it more and more and get further and further away from the original, until it’s just not right anymore.  I think that was my issue with pesto.  So, back to the recipe for more precise measurements.  As it should, it turned out perfectly.  I used a mix of walnuts and pine nuts, a bit less olive oil, and Romano instead of Parmesan, but other than that, it’s pretty close to Giada’s original. And it works.

  • 2 cups basil, packed*
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts and/or walnuts (not each, but total), toasted**
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

1. Place all ingredients except the olive oil and cheese in a food processor.  Pulse and slowly add the olive oil in a drizzle until the pesto comes together.  It will seem quite runny, but not to worry, the cheese will thicken it.

2. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the cheese.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste (I usually don’t need to since the cheese gives it quite a salty taste).

Pesto freezes nicely in a Ziploc bag but they say not to add the cheese if you’re freezing it.  I usually forget to leave out the cheese and the world doesn’t end.

If you’re not going to use it all immediately, store with plastic wrap touching the pesto, as you would guacamole, and it should keep a few days in your fridge.


*If you want to make pesto regularly, measure out the 2 cups basil using a measuring cup, then transfer to one of your often used bowls so that next time, you know just to fill that bowl.

**I toast nuts in my toaster oven (350°) for a few minutes. Keep your eye on them because I have burned many a nut!  You could also do so in a small dry skillet on your stove top.


And so, Grilled Bread!

This had been the culinary revelation of my summer and the easiest way to add a starch to a grilled dinner with summer salads.

Ready, set, go!

  • baguette
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • salt and pepper

Slice your baguette lengthwise and cut into large-ish pieces.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill for only a minute or two (when your meat is resting perhaps).

If you want to get fancy, you can rub the bread with garlic and/or tomato (Pan Catalan!) when it comes off the grill, but I usually don’t bother.

This is a great use for day old bread (buy it cheap and freeze it for this purpose) and is so dang good! My friend Dave thought this was the best part of my Paella dinner earlier in the summer.

Need more Pesto inspiration?

  • Use as the dressing (thin with a bit more olive oil) for a Caprese Salad.
  • Mix with goat cheese and use as a Crostini topping.
  • Add to pasta or gnocchi (but also add a glug of pasta water to help it adhere)
  • Use as the sauce for a shrimp and goat cheese pizza
  • Make the basil balsamic chicken topped with fresh arugula that Rachael made in 7 minutes when her talk show debuted (this is still a great weeknight meal!)
  • Dollop on veggie soup
  • And S’s favorite use, as a cracker topping, straight from the bowl.


Well, I guess I gotta go to bed.  I’m off to the penitentiary (not bright, but early).

Bonne nuit.

About Liza M.

foodie, francophile, Ann Arborite, teacher, bookworm and self-professed latte-lover--come cook with me!
This entry was posted in appetizers, snackies, vegetarian. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Classic Pesto with Grilled Bread

  1. So tasty-looking, and I love the idea of adding it to gnocchi. Delicioso! May have to try that!

  2. Wendy says:

    great post and great pic;) I have never made my own pesto, one of those things that always seemed too time consuming and involves getting out the food processor. One day…one day. Jealous of your back to school ritual, particularly the leisurely reading with coffee, oh how I miss that.

  3. La Torontoise says:

    Liza, thank you! I never made my own pesto either… But I have tons of fresh basil in my fridge and will give it a try tomorrow.
    I wish you a smooth transition; can not agree more regarding ‘the distinct desire to take a vacation’ : -) I suffer from the same syndrome.
    Fortunately my academic year starts later in Sept.
    Love the pictures (the one with the basil leaves in the bow looks like a postcard, très Provençale:-)
    All the best!!

    • Liza M. says:

      Oh my gosh! You have to make pesto if you’ve never done so before (especially with access to all that fresh Provençal basil!) I’m so jealous and also that your academic year starts later. Enjoy your last days of summer!

      Sent from my iPad

  4. sarainlepetitvillage says:

    I always have loads of Basil but I never have any pine nuts and I always forget to buy them. One day, I will remember and I will make this Pesto!
    What do you think of Paris so far?

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