Best Basil Pesto Recipe

5 from 15 votes
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Quick and tasty, this basil pesto is ready in just 10 minutes. Read my tips for making the best pesto you’ve ever tried and use it in sandwiches, pizza and pasta.

a bowl of homemade basil pesto on a wooden backdrop.


 

If you’ve been around for a while, you know I love making my own sauces and condiments. Just like gremolata, balsamic glaze, basil oil and zhoug, making pesto from scratch is a lot easier than what you may think. Make a large batch and freeze it to enjoy at any time and elevate any dish!

What is pesto?

Originally from Genoa, Italy, classic pesto, also known as pesto alla genovese, is a sauce made of basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano and olive oil. The name comes from the verb pestare which means to pound, referring to the classic way of preparation which uses a pestle and mortar.

What is pesto made of?

You need basil, pine nuts, parmesan, garlic and olive oil .
  • Basil: The original recipe is made with Genovese basil; however, regular basil would work, too.
  • Garlic: Make sure the garlic cloves are fresh and remove the green germ if needed.
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano: It’s best to grate Parmigiano-Reggiano freshly right before using. You can also use Pecornio if desired.
  • Pine nuts: These add that nice nutty flavor to the pesto. You can use them right away or toast them in advance for deeper flavor.
  • Olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil works best for this recipe.

Instructions

Toast the pine nuts, place in the food processor with basil, parmesan, salt and garlic. Add the olive oil and blend.
  1. Toast the pine nuts in a pan over medium heat. This is an optional step, however, it’ll add a lot of flavor to the sauce.
  2. Place the basil, garlic cloves, toasted pine nuts and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until the ingredients are finely chopped.
  3. With the food processor still running, add the olive oil in a thin stream and blend until it all comes together.
  4. Transfer to a container and cover with olive oil to preserve the color.

Tips

  • Use quality ingredients: This is a simple sauce, so it’s important to use quality ingredients for the best flavor.
  • Taste: Be sure to taste the pesto prior to using it in a recipe to make sure it has enough salt.
  • Don’t over process: While the classic basil pesto is made using a pestle and mortar, it’s very common to use a food processor nowadays. However, to keep that luxurious creamy and rich texture, it’s important to make sure you don’t over process the mixture.

What do you use pesto for?

Pesto is such a versatile condiment and can be used in a variety of dishes and recipes. Here are a few suggestions:

a bowl of basil pesto with a spoon in it.

Pesto variations

Although the classic pesto is made with basil and pine nuts, these days you can find many using spinach, arugula or kale as base and other nuts such as almonds, cashews or walnuts.

Storage and freezing

Store the pesto in an airtight jar or container and be sure to top it with olive oil to prevent oxidization and color change. If stored properly, it stays in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Can you freeze pesto? Pesto also freezes very well. Transfer it to an ice cube tray and freeze until solid and completely frozen. Then, store the frozen pesto cubes in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 6 months. To use, thaw them in the microwave or in a pan over medium heat.

Pesto with salt, garlic and pine nuts.

Frequently asked questions

Can I make pesto vegan?

Yes, leave out the Parmigiano-Reggiano and use 4 tablespoons nutritional yeast instead.

Why is my pesto bitter?

The main reason that pesto is bitter is because the olive oil is not good and has gone rancid. Make sure you use quality olive oil for best results.

Can I make pesto without pine nuts?

Yes. Although not traditional, it’s possible to make pesto using other nuts including cashews and walnuts.

More condiments to try

Did you make this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Please comment and leave a 5-star🌟 rating below. You can also follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest or subscribe to our newsletter to get a free e-Cookbook!

5 from 15 votes

Basil Pesto Recipe

Quick and tasty, this basil pesto is ready in just 10 minutes. Read my tips for making the best pesto you've ever tried and use it in sandwiches, pizza and pasta.
Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Servings: 8
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Ingredients 

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 2 cups fresh basil , packed
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano , or pecornio
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Instructions 

  • Place a pan over medium heat. Toast the pine nuts until partially golden, about 3 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid burning. Turn the heat off and set the pine nuts aside.
  • Place the basil leaves in the bowl of a food processor with the garlic, toasted pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano and salt. Blend until the basil and pine nuts are finely chopped.
  • While the food processor is running, drizzle the olive oil into the food processor in a thin stream. Once you've used all the olive oil, stop the food processor and scrape down the sides. Blend again for a few seconds if needed.
  • Store in an airtight jar or container and top with more olive oil to prevent oxidization and color change.

Video

Notes

  • Use basil pesto in sandwiches, soups, pastas or pizzas. 
  • If properly stores, pesto can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Make sure it’s covered with olive oil. 
  • To freeze pesto transfer it to an ice cube tray and freeze. Put all the frozen pesto cubes in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 6 months. 

Nutrition

Serving: 2tbsp | Calories: 196kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 213mg | Potassium: 77mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 0.4g | Vitamin A: 352IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 64mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Like this recipe? Leave a comment below!

About Shadi HasanzadeNemati

I'm here to show you how to make delicious Persian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food at home. My easy to follow recipes will bring exciting new flavors to your table!

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5 from 15 votes

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Recipe Rating




15 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    A delicious pesto recipe, the fresh basil and garlic really stand out, offering vibrant and aromatic flavors. It was simple to prepare and added a fantastic touch to our pasta dinner. Thank you!

  2. 5 stars
    Getting the classics right is sometimes so hard. Thanks to your recipe my overgrowing basil patch will get used well.

  3. 5 stars
    The vibrant flavors of fresh basil, garlic, and Parmesan cheese blended together perfectly, creating a deliciously rich and aromatic sauce. This pesto was so easy to make and instantly elevated my pasta dish to restaurant-quality!