Love and Olive Oil

Fettucine al Pesto Genovese

Fettucine al Pesto Genovese

I know, I know. You might be thinking, “Pesto? Boring.” But I’d argue that it’s not a proper basil week without it. And this isn’t your ordinary run of the mill pesto, either. This just might be the best pesto recipe ever created.

Well, the best pesto this side of the Atlantic, that is.

Fettucine al Pesto Genovese

I’m not usually one to follow a recipe precisely. Half a cup of cheese? A teaspoon of salt? Sprinkle, sprinkle, dash, dash… meh, that looks about right.

But even I followed this one to a T.

I commend Saveur on getting this one right. So right that it’s worth getting out that tablespoon to measure out the precise amount of grated Pecorino. Worth spending $6.99 on an itty bitty bag of good pine nuts (because sub-par pine nuts are just, ew). Worth what may seem like a silly step of blanching the basil, because that supposedly mellows the flavor to something akin to the juvenile sprigs they use in Italy.

It’s all worth it, I promise.

Once you’ve tasted the good stuff, pesto the way it was meant to be made, you’ll understand. You’ll understand why I’m preaching such precision; you’ll understand why I’m raving about such a seemingly simpleton sauce. If you’ve been to Italy, you’ll understand. Heck, if you’ve been to a really good Italian restaurant, you’ll understand. Good pesto is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. Complex simplicity. Beautiful balance. Delicate boldness.

Just try it. You’ll understand.

Fettucine al Pesto Genovese

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4 cups packed basil
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 tbsp. finely grated pecorino
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Coarse sea salt, to taste
1 lb fresh linguine or fettuccine pasta


Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanche basil leaves for 20 to 30 seconds or until vibrant green. Remove from boiling water and immediately immerse in an ice water bath to halt cooking process. Drain. Keep pot of water boiling on the stove.

In a food processor combine basil, oil, parmesan, pine nuts, pecorino, and garlic. Pulse until smooth; season with salt and pepper.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking water. Return pasta to pot. Toss with pesto until evenly coated, adding reserved cooking water as needed to thin sauce. Serve immediately.

Recipe from Saveur.

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  1. I loved it. I followed this recipe to the t. And i found out not only is pasta with tomato sauce as some latino like me know it,thank you.

  2. YUM!!!

  3. Hi Lindsay! My name’s Lindsay :). I originally was looking at your Triple Chocolate Pumpkin Pie recipe, debating whether or not I have the chops (or energy) to bake it this Saturday for my boyfriend’s mom’s early Thanksgiving dinner. In the process I came across this Pesto Fettucini recipe, two of my favorite things. One thing, ironically, that I absolutely hate, is cheese. Especially parmesan. The pestos that I usually like dont have much cheese flavoring, but when I do get a hint of it it kind of makes me wince. Do you feel that the 1/2 cup of parmesan is extremely prominent in the flavor of the pesto and it just wouldn’t be as good without cheese? Or do you think I could get away with leaving it out all together. Thanks! Love your blog and your stories!

  4. Cant wait to make this. Where do you recommend buying gold pine nuts?

  5. Lindsay, I’ve NEVER EVER measured anything for pesto, but because you insisted, I did it. Nor had I EVER blanched ((&$@%^#%) the basil. It’s the end of summer, and I wanted to put all that basil in the garden to good use before it became unruly and bitter. This was perfect. The only substitution I did make was use walnuts (fresh, toasted) instead of pine nuts because Mikey is allergic to pine nuts. They were quite good, if not authentic Genovese. Now this is going to be the “old family recipe”. Thanks and hugs…

  6. What a great recipe! I made this the other night with my daughter–who is 6, and recently cooking obsessed (Iron Chef America is currently her favorite show) We couldn’t eat enough of it! Followed the recipe to a T, even the blanching, and I will certainly make it again. We also for an added kick, baked some pancetta until it got nice and crispy and crumbled it over the top. Yum!

  7. This is so lovely. I can’t say that I’ve ever eaten a pesto that’s really knocked my socks off – maybe this could be “the one”? ;)

  8. Wow… looks very delicous and doesn’t sounds hard to try. Thank you for sharing! :)

  9. I always screw up pesto, somehow. Either I go garlic-crazy, I toss in too much oil, or the pinenuts aren’t very fresh. I’m glad you posted this because I have a ton of basil to use up!

  10. That looks simple and delicious! Your declaration of basil week brought a smile to my face. We grew quite a few plants and a couple of weeks ago I made an awesome batch of pesto that I added to almost everything I ate. I will definitely try this recipe soon, especially since I’m looking for any excuse to use the pecorino romano in the fridge… your site!

  11. so funny bc i never measure anything when i make pesto, but you’re making me rethink that decision…can’t wait to try this!

  12. Great recipe! Thanks for sharing and I love your photos by the way.

  13. okay lindsay, you talked me into it. i can’t remember the last time i followed a recipe precisely, but i’ll try this pesto out. i’m a sucker for good pesto. yum.

  14. Finally a “real” pesto recipe… the one and only from Liguria. I love pesto so much I sometimes eat it on bread ;)

  15. Why must pesto be so delicous? I think that’s one of my favorite uses for using up lots of basil. So good and full of flavor.

  16. Our great minds are on the same track!

    I’m planning on making pesto this week, before my basil gives out.

    My recipe is really really close to yours.

    I use the one from The Moosewood Cookbook.

  17. I can’t wait to make this. Looks fabulous

  18. Every time I have to buy pine nuts, I wonder why they are so expensive. And no, I would never think basil slathered pasta is boring – but I might be a bit obsessed.

    I can’t wait to try this one – it looks simple and perfect.

  19. I usually make Ina Garten’s, which my young brother-in-law likens to “crack.” I’ll take your word for it that this one is to die for and will be trying it out soon! and you’re so right… sub-par pine nuts are a travesty.

  20. i love how easy and elegant this is. thank you for sharing this.

  21. LOVE a good pesto! Your pictures and description have me sold on this recipe!

  22. Simple, healthy and beautiful
    Just the look of the pics are so refreshing

  23. simplicity is key when it’s muggy outside. too hot! love how easy it is – and you could toss in a bunch of fresh veggies off the grill = vegetarian supper! love it!

  24. I am a huge lover of all things basil and pesto but have never heard of blanching the leaves before processing. Definitely going to give this one a try. Looks and sounds amazing.

  25. A bold claim… I love it! Last time I made pesto I was far too heavy-handed with the garlic. I’ll definitely give your recipe a whirl, thank you. c

  26. Yes. Please.

    This is my idea of THE perfect meal. Simple and rustic and pesto-y to the MAX.


  27. You can’t beat a good recipe for pesto – I haven’t used the blanching trick before but I can see how it would help get rid of that overly-metallic taste that basil can sometimes have.

    Just a quick q – I presume (as you didn’t say so) that you didn’t toast the pine nuts first? I’ve seen recipes both ways but I’m not sure that it really makes a huge amount of difference.

    • I did not toast the pine nuts, no. I did splurge on the expensive italian pine nuts. I’ve had some cheaper ones that always seem to ‘taint’ whatever they are added to. Figured it was worth the extra $!

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