It’s Sunday night (well, actually pretty much any night since for Italians, pasta Sundays become pasta any days.) I come to the family room where my yellow kitchen with marble countertops is located, and I see my mom in her long red apron covered in lilies at the counter near the stove, prepping a pesto sauce for tonight's dinner.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve watched her in that kitchen.  Now, at 19 years old, I sit at the kitchen table in the same spot I’ve sat in since I claimed it at age five and just watch her. My mom loves to cook, or at least makes it look like she does, and she is always experimenting with new recipes. But, her most famous recipe, passed down from her mother who got the recipe from her mother and so forth, a Frio tradition, is this homemade pesto sauce. Want the recipe? It’s a secret, but I’ll tell you anyway.

Mama's Pesto Sauce

  • Prep Time:10 mins
  • Cook Time:3 mins
  • Total Time:13 mins
  • Servings:1
  • Easy


  • 2 cups firmly packed basil leaves
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 4 cloves garlic
pasta, spinach, vegetable, herb, basil, pesto
Jake Popescu
  • Step 1

    Place all of the ingredients into the blender, covering it and blending on medium speed. Stop the blender occasionally to scrape slides so you get every last bit. It should take about three minutes until it’s smooth.

    herb, vegetable, garlic, pesto, oil
    Kristine Mahan
  • Step 2

    You can toss this with hot pasta, but the coolest part? You can freeze it up to six months and it’ll still taste like my favorite pasta sauce. Be sure to let it stand at room temperature until thawed.

    vegetable, cheese, pasta, sauce
    Kristine Mahan

Besides the taste, this recipe is so special to me because it’s something that I’ve grown up with. I love the idea of something not changing even though I’ve changed a lot over the years. It reminds me of my youth, and as I grew older, my mom would let me help her with more and more parts of the recipe. It’s a quick and easy recipe to make as long as you have the ingredients handy, but I always secretly wished it would take longer because I love spending time with my mom, especially in the kitchen.

If I could, and I do ask, I would have this sauce every night, because it has been alongside me as I’ve grown up. It's been the answer to the "favorite food" question on the back-to-school questionnaires since before I can remember. I love the pesto, and I love hearing from my grandma and my great grandma about the times they would make it with their daughters, moms, and grandmas too. It’s a way for me to connect with the family I never had the chance to meet, and keeps the Frio name alive and special, even though my last name is Gialanella.

As Guy Fieri says: "Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everyone around the world, people get together to eat."