Alex Mackay's fresh basil puree, the Provencal version of the Italian pesto, makes the perfect sauce for a grilled lamb chop
By Alex Mackay
  • Rating:
  • Serves: Makes about 100g
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Effort: easy


  • 50 basil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 50 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Tips and Suggestions

"The basil puree, familiarly known as pesto, is generally associated with Italy," says Alex, "but pistou has been known and used in Provence for just as long as it has been anywhere in Italy. A wonderful old friend in the village, who used to have an Italian neighbour with whom she constantly argued, spent an afternoon convincing me of this. She also reminded me that she'd been around for a long time, and so knew a thing or two ...

"The blanching of the basil may come as a real surprise. This will be the first and only time I'll give you a recipe where a tiny bit of flavour is sacrificed, but the vibrant colour more than makes up for it. This recipe makes enough to use for one recipe of Soupe au pistou or to sauce grilled fish or lamb; with a few additions it can be used to dress pasta or risotto. I think it is always worth making double or more so you're never without a burst of Provence."

Pistou can be stored in a small airtight jar in the fridge for no longer than a week, covered with a layer of olive oil to prevent discolouration.


1 Blanch the basil leaves in boiling water for no more than 30 seconds, then immediately plunge into cold water. Drain very well.

2 Put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth.

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