The Best Pesto Ever – Seriously!

Harvesting basil for pesto
Summer is coming – How to grow basil from a slip

Basil grows in abundance during the summer and spring months here in East London. The beautiful soft leaves are perfect for making pesto, but the stems are not. I’m a frugal flea at the best of times and I compost. Last year I looked at the stems I was about to toss into my compost. What would happen, I wondered if I stuck them into beautiful rich soil? I decided to give it a try and lo and behold they grew. So now when I harvest basil through the spring and summer months I take the leaves off their stems and push the cuttings back into the soil.

I read later that to propagate properly you should put the stems into a glass of fresh water and wait for tiny little roots to grow. The water should be changed daily. Once the roots are established you can then transfer the cutting into pots. This was an experiment. It was quick and easy and didn’t require a rigmarole of endless attention and faffing about. “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

This year I hope to repeat the experiment with success. If you decide to do this please let me know how it goes. In the meantime have a look at how to make basil pesto.

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I want to say thank you to Steve, a very special friend who took some time out of his hectic schedule to show me how to make a small pottery bowl. I was utterly clueless, but with his gently and exceptionally patient way I managed to create my own little bowl. When he delivered it to me I immediately thought about honouring this little bowl and making fresh pesto. I have an abundance of basil growing in my garden. My little bowl worked like a champion. It probably would have been better not to have glazed it for this particular job, but regardless I love her and I’m proud of my efforts. 

HOw to grow basil from a slip

Grow your own basil from a slip and then make the BEST Homemade Mortar & Pestle Pesto


  • 20-25 g garlic* cloves about 4-6
  • 1/4 tsp Maldon Salt
  • 120-140g freshly picked basil leaves 
  • 35g raw pine nuts
  • 56g Parmigiano Reggiano finely grated on a microplane
  • 90g olive oil (1/2 cup)


     What to do with freshly picked basil?
    Everything about this pesto is delicious but if you are time constrained the slow process of crushing and grinding may be a step too far for you to justify time invested vs taste rewarded.   I definitely did think so whilst making it, but completely changed my mind when I tasted it. You have to really love pesto. My next best tip would be to use all the best ingredients and rather pulse blend to get the chunky texture. It really does make a difference to the taste compared to the harmogonized-store-bought-stuffed-with-long-shelf-life-preservatives version. Always buy fresh is the 3rd tip when you don't have time to make your own  but this is the last resort. 
    Oh and it's an excellent way to get green leafies down your kiddies hatches. 
    Garlic have anti-viral and immune boosting properties.
    Dietary intake of garlic and garlic products is suggested to prevent viral infections as a prophylactic intervention.
    The organosulfur constituents of garlic contribute in prevention of viral infectiones
  • Get all your ingredients ready
  • Place salt and roughly smashed garlic cloves into M&P (Mortar & Pestle). When you smash the garlic cloves this releases the Allicin**
  • Next add a handful at a time of basil leaves and crush these into to garlic until you have crushed all the leaves into a paste. 
  • keep adding a handful of leaves at a time
  • Now add the raw pine nuts and continue to grind these into the basil paste until the nuts are broken down. The size of the pine nuts will  depend on the length of time you invest into grinding them into the paste.
  • This paste will not be a fine blended paste like you will get if you used a blender but that's exactly the idea. It's meant to be chunky not smooth. This is a process and I asked myself many times why the hell was I doing it this way rather than a quick blitz in the blender. The answer only came when I finally got to taste this heavenly pesto 
  • Now add 1/3 at a time the Parmigiana and continue to crush and grind until all the cheese is used.  
  • The pesto will start to resemble pesto now and the aromas will start to make you smile as you finally near the crushing and grinding finish line.
  • Next up add a tablespoon of olive oil at a time and see how this pesto starts to look better than any pesto you have ever tasted.
  • I was beyond excited to get a big dollup onto my Freshly baked Sourdough. This can also be stirred through a big bowl of pasta, or courgette ribbons for those who are more carb conscious. Add to salad as an alternative to dressings.   My absolute favourite pesto has always been Woolies fresh pesto, but I think it's been knocked out of poll position but my homemade version
  • It's a lot of work, but my verdict is this is far superior to any pesto I have ever made with a stick blender or a food processor. It was definitely a labour of love

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