Running Fuel: Make your own pesto

I have this thing about making my own food. I know that the package version probably exists but when you use fresh ingredients everything tastes so much better. You can control the textures and experiment with adding in more of this and less of  that. As an athlete I also find that I function better on nutritionally sound foods. My digestion improves and I fill up on less. All this adds up to a faster run.

With all the training I’ve been doing this year for Ironman Zurich I haven’t had as much time to spend in the kitchen labouring over new recipes. So I fall back on the old standards, which in Italy are pretty awesome. I shop for the fresh ingredients but make sure that nothing needs more than a few minutes of preparation.

Pesto is a perfect example of a “fast food” dish. Easy to make and usually a family pleaser. I can serve it to my ten year old son who is picky about everything these days.

The ingredients you’ll need:




  • 3 oz of olive oil
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic (or none if you don’t like garlic)
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts
  • 3 oz basil leaves
  • 2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 oz Pecorino cheese, grated
  • 1 pinch of sea salt

A true Italian recipe would have you mash this all up with a mortar and pestle. To quicken the process you can use a food processor. The only adjustment you’ll have to do is to place the blades in the freezer ahead of time since the heat created by the constant whirling can blacken the basil. You’ll end up with a darker pesto rather than a bright green hue.


  • Separate the basil leaves from the stems (toss stems into compost) and take off the residual water with a salad spinner.
  • Crush the garlic and put it in the food processor with the basil leaves. Pulse for ten seconds at a time until the basil is shredded.
  • Add the pine nuts and pulse again until mixed.
  • Add both cheeses along with a pinch of salt (just a pinch!) and pulse until blended.
  • This is the only tricky part: turn on the food processor and add the oil in a very thin stream, as slowly as you can. As you pour the pesto will take shape and turn into a creamy pot of goodness… slurp! If you botch up this part and go too fast it will still taste good but not be as homogenous and creamy.
  • Start to finish it takes about ten minutes to make. Super easy!





You can use it on pasta or rice or as an accent to a meat dish. It keeps in the fridge in a glass jar for up to a week. I like to make it ahead of time so that I can give instructions to the family to “make” dinner while I go out on a run before we eat. Win-win!


Pictured above is 100 grams of organic whole wheat pasta (weighed dry) and 1 tablespoon of homemade pesto; the perfect dish for my afternoon workout. How about yours?

  1. Minna
    Thank you, Julia, for this recipe! I made pasta sauce with spinach using this method. Very easy and very good!
  2. Julia
    Yum Minna! I'll have to try the spinach version!