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Abracadabra Pesto!


Fresh Genovese Basil growing Fall 2013 under the old oak tree in our yard

This time of year I am busy making pesto for winter eating. I feel city lots are a great place to grow your own basil for pesto. We grow the fresh Genovese Basil from Italy, and Music Garlic each summer. The garlic was harvested in June.


I always start with Genovese Basil which makes according to the experts, the best pesto. Sometimes I will add Lemon Basil to some of my batches.

It all started about 7 yrs ago when I first grew a bed of basil. I had a surplus and was wondering what I could make with all my extra basil. I decided to try making fresh pesto sauce. That September we started eating fresh pesto from our Urban Potager. It was a busy fall, and I never did get some put away for later eating. In the winter, I decided to try some pesto from the grocery store. I purchased several, and they were all HORRIBLE! There was only one type that I found pleasant, but a bit too oily and it cost over $5.00 for a 2 oz jar! There was no way I would be paying that price for something I could grow so easily in our own yard.

I always grow Music Garlic since it has beautiful scapes and grows well in our zone 5 gardens. I feel the garlic is the key to the best tasting pesto! After growing a variety of garlic over the years, I settled on Music Garlic, which is a mild flavored, hard-necked midseason producer. It produces a lot of garlic so once you plant your first garlic bulbs you will never have to purchase any more bulbs. It produces large bulbs that are great to cook with and I enjoy the flavor of this garlic in pesto. I feel what makes great pesto is a good basil and flavorful garlic. We prefer to make our pesto with almonds due to the high cost with Pine nuts.

I had read a few places you can freeze pesto, so I gave it a try.….now during the winter months of December to March I have fresh pesto each week. I will be busy the next few weeks putting up pesto.

This is some Lemon Pesto. I did not grow any Lemon Basil this fall, but it does make a great tasting basil, too. Lemon Basil also makes a great tea.

Here is our recipe,


Basic Basil Pesto Recipe

2 cups Fresh Genovese Basil/Lemon Basil

2 cloves of fresh Garlic ( hopefully one you grew!)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup almonds

 * We use Almonds due to the high cost of pine nuts

1/2 cup virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

I use my magic bullet. I put garlic in first, washed basil, cheese and virgin olive oil. I add nuts last, and it seems to work well for me. I like eating it fresh from the garden!

16 replies »

      • Italian basil gets angry pretty easily in the heat here, but we get just enough before it keels over to make one fresh batch of pesto each spring. DH keeps threatening to make pesto with an African Blue Basil or Thai basil…I’m not sure how much I’d like those flavors that concentrated!

  1. Mmmmm! I made pesto last year and froze it in ice cube trays, then popped the cubes into bags for the freezer. It was sure handy to add to pasta or sauce. I hear you about the price of pine nuts. I made mine with English walnuts, but I’ll bet it’s better with almonds.

    • I know It is not very cost effective if you make it with pine nuts. No wonder a 2 oz bottle cost over 5.00 dollars! Great idea freezing the pesto in ice cube trays:-)

  2. Your basil is beautiful, what’s your secret? I use almonds in my pesto too, but never thought to try adding lemon basil – thank you for that! This was my first year growing lemon basil and I do love the smell. I catch myself running my hands thru it just for the fragrance.

    • I am wondering if basil likes our growing area. We have very hot, humid weather and if you keep it watered it seems to like our dry summer weather.
      We are having another drought this year again and basil just never seems to be bothered by our awful weather the last few years. I mix the lemon basil in with the genovese basil since it’s( lemon basil) leaves are a bit small compared to the large leaves of the genovese basil. I do the same thing, run my hands through it and plant it where I pass by it every day-:-)

  3. I always grow a big batch of basil every year to make freezer pesto, but this year my basil isn’t so prolific. I will really miss my pesto! You can bet next year the basil will take center stage!

    • I will miss mine, too if I don’t get it made here soon. I have this week to get it put away since we are expecting some cooler weather after our hundred degree weather today. I have years where I wait too long and it gets frost burn and it is no good after that stage:-) So off to start the fall pesto making marathon:-)

      • It loves our hot, humid weather here in zone 5, but I do have to keep it watered if it is in full sun. I have one bed (picture above under the 70 yr old oak tree) with early morning sun, day time shade, and late afternoon sun. It seems to do better there than in our full sun.I decided to keep it under the tree and just rotate it between my planting area I created this year. Once we get a frosty fall night it is all black on the leaves.I tried it with a thai basil once, I believe a long time ago with some other nuts and it was not as good as the Claissic Italian( Genovese). However, maybe it was the combination of items I put in the pesto…I would experiement, you never know– That is how I found out the lemon basil added to the Genovese basil made some “lemon” flavored pesto!:-)

  4. Oddly enough, I just ordered some music garlic for the first time today! I am going to give the garlic thang another shot. Will do some Italian softneck and the music. (We did get scapes and you’re right, they are lovely!!!)

  5. Hi Robbie, I wanted to tell you that I’ve been going thru your archives and love the post you wrote last autumn about cool weather greens. Also, your midwestern garden is fabulous! I can’t wait to show this to some of my neighbors who seem to think that Californa alone has a monopoly on the ability to grow good food. Your garden is such an inspiration! I need to get my act together and go sow some cool weather seeds – I can’t wait to try the Lolla Rossa & Lovage that you recommended. Thank you!

    • Aww…that is so nice of you to say:-) The past few years the drought has been hard on my garden. I am reading a few books on growing food year round with protection. I just have to find creative ways to keep it going throughout the year. It is true California has the best weather year round! I am finding that each year I just have to adapt what I grow to our area, for example, I am learning that some vegetables just are not good for small space growing. I have to practice succession planting if we want to eat 3 sesaons out of 4. Lolla Rossa lettuce is so pretty in the garden in the cooler weather. I enjoy lovage in my vegetable wraps it is so easy to take care of and useful for flavoring dishes. Check out “High Mowing Seeds” they have some of the best lettuce types( plus their seed company started in a backyard!), I sure do love the red lettuce types!

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