This Basil Pesto is easy to make and is a great way to use up all that basil in your garden! Enjoy this homemade pesto with your favorite pasta, with salmon or chicken, or on pizza. There are so many ways to enjoy this vibrant basil pesto!
Easy Basil Pesto Recipe
I’ve been eating pesto on everything lately! It’s one of the best ways to add bold, fresh flavors to an entree and it’s easy to make. If you haven’t tried making it at home yet, you haven’t lived yet!
The freshness of homemade basil pesto makes it so much better than store-bought, plus the fact that homemade uses extra-virgin olive oil vs. the canola oil many grocery store brands use.
This is the perfect pesto recipe if you just happen to be planting an herb garden with lots of basil in it this summer (we just planted our first garden — fingers crossed! We’ll see how it goes). This recipe does take about three fairly large bunches of basil to make.
Your best bet will be to use a kitchen scale to get the weight of the basil leaves right, because we all pack leaves into cups differently. I did add some parsley to this pesto, but if you’d prefer you can just use more basil, which I also do on occasion. I do love the blend of the two herbs so usually if I have the parsley I’ll always add it in too.
If you’re looking to keep your pesto nice and vibrantly green you will need to boil the basil leaves for 5 seconds (fully submerged) then rest in ice water to halt the cooking process and drain (aka quickly blanch it).
This step is completely optional, if I’m not too concerned about the look of the pesto and I don’t care if it turns to a dingy-ish green I’ll skip this step on occasion, but it is just so nice to keep it in the fridge for a few days and go back to nice vibrantly green pesto.
Just keep in mind blanching removes a bit of the flavor. You can try it both ways and see if you think the blanching is worth it.
Basil Pesto Ingredients
For this homemade basil pesto sauce, you’ll need:
- Fresh basil
- Fresh parsley
- Pine nuts
- Shredded Parmesan
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
How to Make Pesto From Scratch
- Add basil, parsley, Parmesan and garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely minced.
- Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- With processor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil.
- Scrape down the sides as needed, and pulse until pesto is smooth.
How to Freeze Pesto
I can’t think of a better use for this homemade pesto then to make a bunch of it and freeze it to enjoy throughout the year. Come winter you’ll be so glad you did!
To freeze pesto, simply store it in an airtight, freezer-safe container and freeze. When you’re ready to use the pesto, place it in the fridge to thaw slightly before scooping it out.
I’ve heard that you can also freeze pesto in an ice cube tray and store the frozen cubes in a freezer bag. Then you can pop one or two pesto cubes into your pasta and warm through that way. If you’ve tried this before, let me know!
My Favorite Pesto Uses
There are so many ways to use pesto! A few of my favorite pesto uses include:
- With pasta — I like pairing this homemade pesto with my Shrimp Pesto Pasta, as well as my Tortellini with Pesto and Roasted Veggies. But it goes well with any pasta dish!
- With chicken — Pesto and chicken is a great combination! Try using this pesto in this Sheet Pan Pesto Chicken with Asparagus and Tomatoes, or with these Caprese Chicken Kebabs.
- With seafood — This Pesto Salmon and Veggies in Foil is popular with my family, as is this Grilled Salmon with Creamy Pesto Sauce.
- In soups — Not many people think to use pesto in soup! Add it to this Gnocchi Vegetable Soup, you won’t regret it!
Tips for the Best Pesto
- Pine nuts are a traditional pesto ingredient, but if you don’t have any you can also use unsalted almonds or walnuts.
- You can use toasted or raw pine nuts for this recipe.
- If possible, use freshly grated Parmesan for this pesto recipe. It makes a big difference in flavor!
More Easy Italian Recipes You’ll Love:
- Homemade Marinara Sauce
- Avocado Caprese Pasta Salad
- Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
- Pasta Carbonara
- Instant Pot Spaghetti
Follow Cooking Classy
Perfect pesto every time! It's perfectly bright and incredibly flavorful. Perfect for tossing with pasta, vegetables, gnocchi or serve over chicken. The parsley is optional and just adds another layer of flavor but feel free to omit it and add more basil.
- 3 cups (66g) slightly packed basil leaves*
- 1/4 cup (34g) pine nuts** (un-toasted or toasted)
- 1/2 cup (35g) grated parmesan cheese***
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/2 cup (120ml) extra virgin olive oil
- Salt to taste
To a food processor add basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and garlic and process mixture until finely minced, while occasionally scraping down sides of processor.
Add 1/2 olive oil and process until well pureed, occasionally scraping down the sides of processor. Thin with a little more oil if mixture is thick, season with salt to taste.
Store in refrigerator in an airtight container.
- *Recipe originally listed 3 cups basil 1/2 cup (15g) slightly packed parsley, but now I always just keep it at basil unless I don't quite have enough. In a pinch you can also stretch it by using 1/2 baby spinach in place of 1/2 of the basil the flavor just won't be as vibrant.
- **If you'd like you can also toast the pine nuts in the oven or in a skillet for extra flavor if preferred.
- ***I like to use a zester to grate the parmesan for fine delate shreds that blend well into the sauce.
How to Blanch Basil:
If you want to keep the pesto green, you'll need to blanch the basil first (this step is optional, it's only if you want it to stay nicely green). To do so, bring a large pot of water to a boil over moderately high heat and fill a medium bowl with ice and cold water.
Carefully transfer half of the basil to boiling water using a large wire sieve, then submerge and allow to boil for just 5 seconds. Immediately remove from boiling water and transfer to ice water.
Allow to rest for about 10 seconds, then transfer to paper towels to drain excess water (lightly dab water away, but don't squeeze dry). Repeat with remaining basil.
Recipe updated from archives. Originally shared July 22, 2013