Pesto Recipe

August 18, 2020

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Fresh Basil Pesto recipe – made with an abundance of nutritious fresh basil leaves, rich extra virgin olive oil, flavorful parmesan cheese, bold garlic and buttery pine nuts.

It’s a proud and vibrant sauce that never disappoints!

Bowl full of fresh homemade pesto. Bowl is resting on a wooden platter. Parmesan, fresh basil and pine nuts are shown in the background.

Homemade Pesto Recipe

This easy basil pesto can come together in just minutes, and the food processor does most of the work!

Never had it before and wondering what it tastes like? It tastes incredibly herby (think strong basil flavor), very fresh, and has quite noticeable garlic undertones. Hints of cheese shine through and the nuts and olive oil more so add body and richness.

This vibrant and beautiful sauce is one of the most flavorful things you’ll ever make and eat, yet it uses just a handful of ingredients.

This traditional Italian recipe is a must in your recipe book! And there are countless ways you can use this versatile, healthy pesto.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Ways to Use Pesto

  • toss with cooked pasta (just about any type, tortellini or gnocchi are excellent options too)
  • use as sandwich spread, or turkey burger spread
  • toss with salad (and not just green leafy salad)
  • spread over pizza
  • stick with it as is for a bread dip or mix some into other dips (spinach artichoke dip)
  • toss with meatballs 
  • toss with vegetables; fresh, roasted, sautéed (tomatoes, potatoes, corn etc)
  • add to lasagna
  • serve over chicken, beef, lamb or seafood
  • make a chicken salad, tuna salad, or pasta salad
  • dollop over a bowlful of soup
  • add to eggs or a frittata
  • bake with it – mix into bread dough and more
  • layer over bruschetta

Image showing serving suggestion of pesto. Pesto is tossed of freshly cooked spaghetti pasta in a pasta bowl.

6 Ingredients for Classic Pesto and Tips

  1. Basil: If possible use fresh cut basil. Keep in mind you’ll need lots to make pesto.
  2. Extra virgin olive oil: Use good quality oil for best flavor.
  3. Pine nuts: These can be un-toasted, or toasted to build a little extra flavor.
  4. Parmesan: Imported Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano is best (cut from a big cheese wheel), or Pecorino Romano.
  5. Garlic: Only use fresh garlic for authentic flavor.
  6. Salt: Table salt, sea salt or kosher salt work well here.

Image of ingredients used to make pesto shown. Includes fresh basil, parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and salt.

How to Make the Best Pesto from Scratch

  1. Mince ingredients in a food processor: Add basil, parmesan, pine nuts, and garlic to a food processor. Cover and pulse until finely minced.
  2. Stream in olive oil: Scrape down processor. Then recover and with food processor running slowly poor in olive oil and blend until mixture is nearly smooth (I added a little olive oil beforehand in photo to show what’s inside).
  3. Season: Season with salt to taste. Use right away or store.

Collage of two images showing steps of making pesto in a food processor.

How to Store It

  • Pour into an airtight container.
  • Pour a thin layer of olive oil over the top (to reduce oxidation and browning).
  • Cover with tight fitting lid.
  • Keep chilled in refrigerator.
  • Or spoon into ice cube trays, freeze then transfer to an airtight container in freezer.

How long does it keep?

  • It keeps in refrigerator for 5 – 6 days.
  • Freeze up to 3 months.

Completed pesto in a food processor.

Variations

  • Use walnuts, pistachios or slivered almonds in place of pine nuts.
  • Opt for Pecorino Romano cheese in place of parmesan.
  • Make it vegan using a vegan parmesan cheese.
  • Substitute half spinach or kale for half of the basil.
  • Try it with red pepper flakes for a bit of heat.
  • Add other herbs like parsley or sneak in a bit of oregano or marjoram.
  • Make it thinner or thicker using less or more olive oil.
  • Use a mortal and pestle to prepare it, instead of a food processor.

Image shown overhead of pesto in a white bowl resting on a wooden platter.

Recipes Made with Pesto You’ll Love

Bowl full of fresh homemade pesto. Bowl is resting on a wooden platter. Parmesan, fresh basil and pine nuts are shown in the background.
5 from 1 vote

Basil Pesto Recipe

Fresh Basil Pesto recipe - made with an abundance of fresh basil leaves, rich extra virgin olive oil, flavorful parmesan cheese, bold garlic and buttery pine nuts. It's a proud and vibrant sauce that never disappoints! Makes about 1 cup.
Servings: 6
Prep15 minutes
Ready in: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (packed, 65g) fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup (35g) grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup (36g) pine nuts (toasted or un-toasted)
  • 2 medium garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt, to taste

Instructions

  • Add basil, parmesan, pine nuts, and garlic to a food process. Cover and pulse until finely minced.
  • Scrape down processor. Recover and with food processor running slowly poor in olive oil, through feed tube of the lid insert, and blend until mixture is nearly smooth.
  • Season with salt to taste.
  • Use right away, or store in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 6 days or freeze for 3 months.

Notes

To reduce oxidation topped pesto with a thin layer of olive oil before storing.

Variations

  • Use walnuts, pistachios or slivered almonds in place of pine nuts.
  • Opt for Pecorino Romano cheese in place of parmesan.
  • Make it vegan using a vegan parmesan cheese.
  • Substitute half spinach or kale for half of the basil.
  • Try it with red pepper flakes for a bit of heat.
  • Add other herbs like parsley or sneak in a little oregano or marjoram.
  • Make it thinner or thicker using less or more olive oil.
  • Use a mortal and pestle to prepare it, instead of a food processor.
Nutrition Facts
Basil Pesto Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 226 Calories from Fat 216
% Daily Value*
Fat 24g37%
Saturated Fat 4g25%
Cholesterol 4mg1%
Sodium 95mg4%
Potassium 68mg2%
Carbohydrates 2g1%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 3g6%
Vitamin A 617IU12%
Vitamin C 2mg2%
Calcium 90mg9%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.