The word pesto comes from the verb meaning “to crush or pound” because the traditional method of preparing sauces in Italy was by using the mortar and pestle. So pesto is used for any sauce that is made with a mortar, like the more popular pesto alla Genovese.
In southern Italy, with the abundance of almonds and lemons that are grown every year, a common pesto uses these ingredients and we love to make it.
Hi, my name is Alessandra Lauria, I am a Sicilian pasta maker expert, a dinner party host, and creator and founder of The Pasta Studio - an online (and offline) pasta school. As my roots are Sicilian, I tend to share what’s locally delicious to me. Hope you will enjoy it as much as I do!
As with all pestos, using the mortar for this Almond & Lemon Pesto enhances the flavors from the fresh ingredients while making sure all the nutritional values are not lost. This pesto is very quick to make as it uses only a few ingredients and you only need a small quantity for many people to eat from it.
In this recipe, please pre-grate the parmesan as it is easier when adding it to the mortar before starting the process.
As always, start with the drier and solid ingredients before adding the veggies and the Extra Virgin Olive Oil. However, with this pesto sauce, it is a good idea to add a bit of olive oil when crushing the almonds and a tbsp of water.
Almond & Lemon Pesto
This light and summery pesto is so easy to make in the mortar and pestle!
50g (approx. ⅓ cup) toasted almonds *with the skin on
Zest of 1 and ½ lemons, previously grated
2 tbsp of Parmesan cheese, freshly ground (if aged Pecorino cheese is easy to find, give it a try too)
3 tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (the one I used is from Sicily and it’s very fruity, aromatic, and strong in flavor)
1 medium garlic clove
1 or 2 tbsp of mineral water
Mortar and Pestle
Get all the ingredients ready and prepare your mise en place by grating the lemon zest and parmesan and collecting all the other ingredients into little bowls.
Start by adding the garlic and almonds into the mortar and begin crushing and grinding the ingredients.
Then add the Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Parmesan, and le mon zest into the mortar while mixing with your pestle.
Enjoy it and serve as you wish
NOTE: Chop the almonds before starting the process and add them a bit at a time. If the consistency gets too thick, you can add a bit of water when you mix the almonds together. It will help in giving that smooth texture you are looking for.
For a pasta sauce, make sure that you add some of the pasta water into the pesto bowl together with the drained pasta. Pesto should not be reheated!
You can also enjoy this pesto as a base with seafood. For example, on top of prawns, grilled fish, or with courgettes for summertime. It can even be used just as a spread. Trust me, it’s summery and delicious!
The pesto can be stored in a glass jar in the fridge for 3-4 days. Just make sure there is plenty of Extra Virgin Olive Oil on top of the pesto when storing.