Many types of Italian pesto sold by UK supermarkets contains substitute, and often cheaper, ingredients, according to a 2018 investigation by Which.

Which? tested 12 own-brand standard and premium pestos, all made in Italy, and found a range of additions to the sauce’s traditional four key ingredients: basil, pine nuts, parmesan and olive oil. Many pestos tested contained sunflower oil, carrot and even bamboo fibres.


Scary stuff, especially if you haven’t time to spend scanning the ingredients list on the back of jar to check if this practice continues today. The good news is, making your own at home is easy, much more delicious and means you’ll know exactly what’s going into it.

You’ll need a food processor or a pestle and mortar – either work just as well – and it’s a case of chucking everything in and wizzing together. Here’s how it’s done…

Homemade pesto (Thinkstock/PA)
Homemade pesto (Thinkstock/PA)
Homemade pesto (Thinkstock/PA)
Print Recipe
Nutrition Facts
Amount Per Serving
Calories 205 Calories from Fat 162
% Daily Value*
Fat 18g28%
Saturated Fat 4g25%
Cholesterol 13mg4%
Sodium 301mg13%
Potassium 129mg4%
Carbohydrates 3g1%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 9g18%
Vitamin A 806IU16%
Vitamin C 2mg2%
Calcium 244mg24%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


Fresh, homemade pesto can't be beat
Prep Time10 minutes
Total Time10 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4
Calories: 205kcal


  • Frying pan
  • Food processor or pestle and mortar


  • 1/2 clove of garlic
  • bunch of basil leaves
  • handful of pine nuts
  • heaped handful of parmesan
  • sea salt
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • pepper
  • squeeze of lemon


  • Peel and chop (or bash) half a clove of garlic.
  • Roughly chop a big bunch of basil leaves.
  • Lightly toast a handful of pine nuts in a frying pan (no oil necessary).
  • Grate enough parmesan for a heaped handful.
  • Add the garlic, basil, half the cheese and nuts to a food processor or mortar, with a pinch of sea salt, and wizz up or bash with a pestle until it looks like a paste.
  • Drizzle in enough extra virgin olive oil to bind the mixture to make a nice runny consistency.
  • Checking the consistency as you go, add the rest of the cheese and more oil until you’re happy with the texture. Remember to keep tasting as you go. Everyone likes their pesto different – more basil? more garlic? – so it’s all about experimenting.
  • Add salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon to taste. This will make enough to add to pasta for four people, or it will keep in the fridge in a sealed jar for around two weeks.


Calories: 205kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 13mg | Sodium: 301mg | Potassium: 129mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 806IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 244mg | Iron: 1mg

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