Small Batch Basil Pesto

This small batch basil pesto made with the immersion blender is a quick recipe to one of Italy’s signature pasta sauces. Basil pesto from Liguria has that unique combination of refreshing and oily, creamy and fragrant that comes from the perfect balance between all its ingredients.

Having a good pesto recipe can come in very handy. Imagine it’s summer and you have access to delicious basil leaves. Basil pesto is probably the best way to put them to use. And once you see how easy it is to make basil pesto with the immersion blender you’ll be harvesting basil every other day!

Overhead view of pesto in a jar and immersion blender on the side.

In traditional Italian cuisine pesto is a pasta sauce. But that doesn’t have to stop there. Given its texture, it can as well work as a spread to make wonderful crostini and bruschetta. You can also have it on pizza, instead of tomato sauce. Or you can use it in pesto potato salad. There really is more to pesto than just with pasta. Although there’s no denying that pasta truly is pesto’s perfect match.

Basil pesto with the immersion blender

The traditional way to make pesto is with mortar and pestle. It is obviously not as quick and easy process as using the blender. While it can be very satisfying to make a recipe following the traditional method, it could also be unpractical. So the next best thing you can use is a blender. An immersion blender.

Food processors tend to be the most popular choice when it comes to sauce and spread making. I love my food processor and make pesto in it a lot. But before I got myself one I used to make pesto with my cheaper immersion blender. It turns out that the smaller blades of the immersion blender actually deliver a much better job than the food processor when making pesto. Or if not better, they deliver a result more similar to a traditional pesto made with mortar and pestle.

A jar of basil pesto topped with olive oil.

The biggest advantage of an immersion blender is that there is less cleanup. If I’m to use the pesto right away I will cut it with pasta water in the same container I made it. I wouldn’t do that in the food processor unit. And even if I did, the food processor has a lid that counts as one more item to dish. I prefer the food processor if I’m making larger batches, but the immersion blender is perfect for small batch pesto.

The ingredients

Please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post for detailed quantities.

The ingredients needed for the recipe.

The original Ligurian recipe calls for a blend of Parmigiano and Pecorino (possibly Sardo). In this simplified version I narrow it down to just one cheese. It is okay to choose Grana Padano over more expensive Parmigiano Reggiano.

Garlic is necessary. If you are allergic you can obviously skip it – in fact, you can buy pesto without garlic even in Italy. But if you don’t have an issue with garlic you should really really have it in your basil pesto. It’s fundamental to create that perfect combination of flavours.

How to make pesto with the immersion blender

  • Separate the basil leaves from the stems, which will need to be discarded. If you’re using your own basil or it’s ecologic you don’t need to wash it, but if you are unsure or it’s a bit soiled you can rinse the leaves and dry through a salad spinner or by gently patting them dry between two towels.
  • Add the leaves, garlic (peeled and cut in half), salt, pine nuts and oil to a container you would normally use with the blender – I recommend something tall and with a narrow bottom.
  • Start the immersion blender. At the beginning it may be slightly difficult to use due to the various textures. But as the pine nuts break down and the oil blends in the mixture will loosen. Add the grated cheese and give a final blend until smooth.

If the blender gets stuck – it may happen at the beginning when the leaves and the pine nuts are whole – just gently remove the obstruction with a spoon, put it back down in the container and start again. An up and down motion with the blender can also be very helpful.

Small batch basil pesto tips

This small batch basil pesto recipe yields about 150 g pesto (2/3 cup). This is the perfect amount to make 3-4 portions of pasta. Pesto pasta leftovers can be stored in a lunch box and reheated the following day, so this is fine even if you’re only cooking for one.

If you wish to store pesto you can pour it into a closed jar topped with a half cm olive oil. Store refrigerated and consume within 2 days. The oil layer “seals” the pesto preventing it from oxidizing and turning dark, so it’s important to add some before closing the jar. If you wish to store pesto for a longer time you can freeze it for up to 2 months.

Basil pesto in a jar topped with olive oil to keep fresh.

Do not add lemon juice to prevent oxidization. Some recipes recommend that but I strongly advise against it. Lemon has such a strong flavour there is no way to hide it and it will change the original flavour of the recipe. If you want to make lemon and basil pesto it’s another story, but if you’re after traditional basil pesto then there should be no lemon. The olive oil trick explained above does the job, as long as you add it immediately to any pesto you’re not using right away.

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Small Batch Basil Pesto

Basil pesto made with the immersion blender following the traditional recipe with pine nuts, pecorino and garlic.

Course Sauce
Cuisine Italian
Keyword basil pesto with immersion blender, small batch pesto
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 3 people
Calories 379 kcal
Author Eva | Electric Blue Food

Ingredients

  • 40 g basil leaves clean, stems removed
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 50 g pine nuts
  • 1/3 tsp salt
  • 20 g parmigiano grated
  • 80 ml olive oil

Instructions

  1. Add the basil leaves, garlic (peeled and cut in half), salt, pine nuts and oil to a container suited for the immersion blender.

  2. Start the immersion blender. At the beginning it may be slightly difficult to use due to the various textures. But as the pine nuts break down and the oil blends in the mixture will loosen.

  3. Add the grated cheese and give a final blend until smooth.

Recipe Notes

  • If you're using home-grown or ecologic basil you don't need to wash it, but if you are unsure or it's a bit soiled you can rinse the leaves and dry through a salad spinner or by gently patting them dry between two towels.
  • If the blender gets stuck just remove the obstruction with a spoon, put it back into the container and start again. An up and down motion with the blender can be very helpful before the mixture loosens.
  • Store pesto refrigerated in a closed jar topped with a half cm olive oil. Consume within 2 days. For longer shelf life freeze up to 2 months.
  • The sealing layer of oil on top prevents the pesto from oxidizing and turning dark. Add it as soon as possible to minimize exposure to air. Do not add lemon juice to prevent oxidization as there is no way to hide its strong flavour.

Please notice that the nutritional information provided is made by an online calculator and meant to be used as a guideline only.

Nutrition Facts
Small Batch Basil Pesto
Amount Per Serving
Calories 379 Calories from Fat 360
% Daily Value*
Fat 40g62%
Saturated Fat 6g38%
Cholesterol 5mg2%
Sodium 367mg16%
Potassium 149mg4%
Carbohydrates 3g1%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 760IU15%
Vitamin C 3mg4%
Calcium 107mg11%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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