A simple recipe for pesto calls for 2 cups basil leaves, 1/4 cup pine nuts, two garlic cloves, pecorino romano cheese and various seasonings. Using a food processor, combine the basil, pine nuts and garlic and pulse until the items are finely chopped. Next, the Food Network website suggests adding 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil and processing the mixture until it is smooth. After, season the incorporated mixture with salt and pepper and mix in the cheese.
In absence of a food processor, the garlic, pine nuts and basil leaves can be pounded in a mortar and pestle. This alternative method takes a longer time and requires more effort, but the result is the same, provided the ingredients are used in the proper proportions.
Different recipes call for varying amounts of garlic; different websites may call for up to 2 cloves or as little as 1/4 of a clove. Some recipes also suggest adding a spritz of lemon juice at the end to add a note of citrus to the pesto sauce. Others call for the addition of parsley or the use of a blender for a smoother puree, but most traditional recipes center around the five main ingredients of pine nuts, garlic, romano cheese, basil leaves and olive oil.