Homemade Pesto Sauce without a Food Processor

Shares 3

pesto sauce ingr

I had a hankering for pesto the other day.  I don’t have a food processor and my attempt years ago to use a blender for pesto was a failure.  But I figured that pesto was being made before electricity and modern gadgets, so it must be possible.  Earlier in the summer I had searched online and found someone who had made pesto using a mezzaluna, a half-moon shaped knife. 

So, armed with a sharp knife (no mezzaluna in my kitchen) and a few handfuls of fresh basil leaves from the garden, I proceeded to make this wonderful concoction known as pesto.  You probably noticed that there are a few ingredients missing from that picture.  I did use garlic, but it didn’t find it’s way into the photo.  Unfortunately, I had no pine nuts or walnuts, and since it was 4:30 in the afternoon when I decided to start this experiment, I wasn’t going to run out to the store to buy any.  What I found out is pine nuts are not essential – good, probably better with than without, but not essential.

Here’s what I used in very rough estimates.  I really just went by looks.

  • about 2 cups of packed fresh basil leaves
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • parmesan cheese, grated, maybe 1/4 – 1/3 cup
  • olive oil, maybe 1/2 cup

I wish I had some photos of the process, but making pesto by hand is a messy thing to do.  My fingers were stained a lovely shade of brown when I finished.  I started chopping the basil leaves, a small bunch at a time.  I just kept chopping them until I didn’t think they could get any more fine.  I scraped that bunch into a small bowl, poured in some olive oil and chopped more basil.  Repeat, until all the basil is chopped.

As I was adding the basil to the bowl, I also stirred in some cheese.  Then more oil. More basil, more cheese, more oil.  It was somewhere in here I realized I needed garlic too.  More chopping, adding, stirring.  The kitchen smelled positively divine at this point.

It did take a while to do the chopping, maybe 20 or so minutes.  Not something I have time for every day.  And all the while I was chopping I was trying to decide exactly what to do with the pesto when I’d finished it.  I knew it would involve cheese ravioli, but the rest was still to be decided.

I don’t usually post twice in one day, but today is special 🙂 Come back later and I’ll show you the final destiny of this pesto sauce.  Frozen cheese ravioli will never be the same!

Here’s a picture of the finished pesto.  I wish you could smell it too, because it smelled 3000 times better than it looks.

pesto sauce done

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

You Might Also Like:


  1. Hi Tiffany! Yes, I do check your blog (daily) and the boys love when they have already tested the cookies that are on your site! You should have asked me about pine nuts, I have half of a bag left from when we made pesto sauce a month ago! I think your new site is really great!!

    • Molly, Hah! Now you tell me 😉 Next time I’m coming over. You’re hiding all kinds of good ingredients in your house 🙂

  2. So glad you posted this! Putting pesto right there on my list of things I need to make..SOON! 😉

  3. I love your way of cooking. sometimes I just can’t remember how much to put in so each time it was different,lol. now I am better it approximating the amounts,lol. This recipe sounds really good.
    Stop by my Kitchen blog to see what’s going on. See ya later:-)

  4. Looks so good! I’ll bet it was a lot of work but well worth it 🙂

  5. I know, I know. No food processor. Back in the day when I still had one, I used to make pesto. Pesto recipes call for pine-nuts (not in budget then or now). Classic pestos also say to sub walnuts. (okay if you’ve got ’em). Best sub is slivered almonds (purchased during holiday baking sales and stashed in the freezer so they don’t go rancid).

  6. Perfect – all the ingredients I have. Will start chopping now 🙂

  7. Samantha says:

    So glad I came upon this recipe while searching…I do not own a food processor, nor do I plan on buying one for just one meal. I cannot wait to make my basil fresh! Thanks for all the info : )

  8. Thank you for this post. I have been meaning to make pesto for weeks but also don’t have a food processor. This evening I got the ambition to try it without one, wish me luck.

  9. Thank you for the recipe. I don’t have a food processor and didn’t want to make a trip to the store for walnuts or pinenuts. Trying this out today! Cant wait to enjoy some pesto pasta tonight!

  10. Tracie Johnson-Hathorn says:

    Perfect idea! I too was craving pesto today and have yet to unpack my food processor and the thought of having to dig it all out of even a small blender was not attractive so I did it by hand and crushed everything together with a pestle and mortar (a pretty good set I got in Japan). I used coconut oil and macadamia nuts. It is AMAZING!

  11. You’re awesome Tiffany! Thank you so much for posting your experiment. I found myself with a big pile of Basil and a clove of garlic and I was seriously craving some Pesto. Problem is, I don’t own a food processor.
    I googled “how to make pesto with our a food processor” and your recipe popped up.
    About 45 minutes (I went a little crazy with the chopping) and two brown hands later, we had the most incredibly fresh and delicious bowl of Pesto!
    My wife and I, and our taste buds thank you!

  12. Do you still get the same basil intensity when you take a knife to it over and over? I noticed the more delicate you are means more basil flavor, however I’m not sure there is a delicate way to make pesto.

    • Yes, the basil still tastes very intense. No matter how you make it, you’ve got to chop the basil so I’m not sure it makes a big difference in flavor.


  1. […] I Googled around to see if anyone had written about making pesto without a processor, sure enough I found someone who had. It isn’t overly complicated to figure out how to do, but I wanted to […]

Speak Your Mind