Basil Pesto à la Michael Chiarello

As I prepped for an extended vacation recently, I noticed quite a few perishable goodies in my kitchen that would go to waste. I could think of no better way to use that newly purchased basil plant (poor planning) than to make a batch of basil pesto.

As far as Italian chefs go, I always know that Michael Chiarello won't lead me astray. So I grabbed the Tra Vigne Cookbook off my shelf.

Basil Pesto - Tra Vigne Cookbook

Ingredients (Makes 1 1/2 cup pesto):

  • 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Optional - 1/8 teaspoon vitamin C (I skipped this)


  • Put basil in the food processor.
  • Add the garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and salt and pepper, blend for at least 30 seconds.
  • Add the cheese and pulse to combine.

I took the easy route with Michael's recipe. Besides adding vitamin C to keep the pesto from browning, he also recommends blanching the basil for 15 seconds first. After 15 seconds, shake off the excess water, and plunge the basil into an ice water bath so that it cools as fast as possible. Squeeze the water out of the basil with your hands until very dry - then you can start back at step 1.

I reserved a small amount of pesto for immediate use on a grilled cheese, then threw the rest in a freezer safe container.


Michael Chiarello's basil pesto ingredients

Here are a few ways I like using pesto:

Pesto Grilled Cheese

  • Brush 2 slices rustic bread with pesto, then sandwich with sliced cheddar or provolone.
  • Butter the outside of the bread and cook in a skillet over medium heat until golden.


Pesto Toast with Shrimp and Garlic - Everything Fabulous

  • In heated pan pour oil and cook shrimp for 1 1/2 minutes on each side (large shrimp) or 1 minute on each side for smaller shrimps.
  • While frying shrimp, sprinkle them with sea salt and add the sliced garlic.
  • Spread pesto on toast, place shrimp and sliced garlic.
  • Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.