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.
If you've been around for a while, you know I love making my own sauces and condiments. Just like 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!
Table Of Contents:
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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- With the food processor still running, add the olive oil in a thin stream and blend until it all comes together.
- Transfer to a container and cover with olive oil to preserve the color.
- 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:
- Mix it with cooked pasta to make pesto pasta.
- Drizzle it over caprese salad or caprese skewers.
- Stir into yogurt for a quick dip or spread.
- Use it as a base or topping for flatbreads, caprese pizza or Mediterranean pizza.
- Spread it on sandwiches and paninis for extra flavor.
- Use it to make pesto salmon or caprese chicken.
- Stir it into soups such as minestrone soup or sausage gnocchi soup.
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.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, leave out the Parmigiano-Reggiano and use 4 tablespoons nutritional yeast instead.
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.
Yes. Although not traditional, it's possible to make pesto using other nuts including cashews and walnuts.
More condiments to try
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Basil Pesto Recipe
- ½ cup pine nuts
- 2 cups fresh basil packed
- 3 cloves garlic
- ⅓ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecornio
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ cup olive oil
- 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.
- 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.