Just Your Basic Homemade Basil Pesto Recipe

Ready to unleash your inner chef? Here’s a classic and foolproof recipe for fresh homemade basil pesto, a dynamic green sauce that will take your home cooking to the next level. With simple ingredients and straightforward steps, get ready to create a smooth and flavorful pesto like a pro!

Fresh basil pesto in a white ramekin with gemelli pasta in the background.

What is basil pesto?

Pesto is an iconic Italian sauce originally hailing from Genoa! We’re talking fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and extra-virgin olive oil all coming together in one fantastic blend. And trust us, this sauce is the definition of vibrant green goodness!

The name “pesto” comes from “pestare,” meaning to crush, and boy, does this sauce crush it in the flavor department! Whether homemade or store-bought, basil pesto is a delightful way to add a burst of flavor to your gourmet creations!

Bright green pesto in a white ramekin.

What are some uses for pesto?

Pesto is incredibly versatile and a delightful addition to a wide range of dishes. Here are some delicious ways to use it:

Pasta Sauce: Toss cooked pasta with pesto for a quick and flavorful pasta dish. You can also mix it with cream or a little pasta water to create a creamy and luscious sauce.

Sandwiches: Spread pesto on sandwiches, wraps, or paninis to add a burst of herby goodness to your favorite lunchtime bites.

Pizza: Use pesto as a pizza sauce, either as the base sauce or drizzled on top of your favorite pizza toppings for an extra punch of flavor.

Salad Dressing: Mix pesto with a little olive oil and lemon juice to create a delightful dressing for salads, grain bowls, or roasted vegetables.

Bruschetta: Top toasted baguette slices with basil pesto, fresh tomatoes, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese for a tasty bruschetta appetizer.

Pesto in a white ramekin with a sprig of basil and lemon slices.

Grilled Meats and Seafood: Brush pesto onto grilled or roasted chicken, steak, or salmon to add a delicious herb-infused glaze.

Eggs: Swirl pesto into scrambled eggs or omelets for a savory breakfast treat.

Soups: Add a spoonful of pesto to soups like minestrone or tomato soup for a burst of flavor.

Dips and Spreads: Mix pesto with cream cheese, Greek yogurt, or sour cream to create a delicious dip for veggies or chips. Or whip it with butter to make pesto butter.

The possibilities are endless with this basic pesto basil recipe, so get creative and explore different ways to enjoy its delectable taste!

If you are looking for more delicious Italian inspired dishes check out our Simple Italian-Style Roasted Vegetables, Panzanella Salad with Fresh Mozzarella, and Easy Italian Baked Eggs in Marcella’s Tomato Sauce.

Fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese for making pesto.

*For the full list of ingredients and quantities see the recipe card at the bottom of the page.

Ingredient notes

Toasted pine nuts: To add a delightful nutty flavor, toast the pine nuts before blending them with the other ingredients. This step enhances the overall taste of the pesto.

Garlic cloves: Use fresh garlic for the most robust flavor. Adjust the amount based on your preference for garlic intensity.

Fresh basil leaves: Opt for high-quality fresh basil leaves to achieve the vibrant green color and authentic basil taste.

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese: Grate the Parmesan cheese just before using for the best taste and texture. For a vegan option, consider using a plant-based Parmesan substitute.

Extra-virgin olive oil: Choose a good-quality extra-virgin olive oil to enhance the overall richness of the pesto.

Fresh lemon juice (optional): For a bright and zesty kick, add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. This optional ingredient complements the other flavors but can be omitted if preferred.

Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Step-by-step instructions

Time needed: 15 minutes

  1. Toast the nuts (optional)

    Ready to take your pesto game up a notch? Let’s toast those nuts! If you’re like me and adore a slightly nuttier flavor, this step is a must-do. So heat a dry skillet over medium heat and add the nuts. Toast them for a few minutes, stirring frequently until they are lightly golden. Keep a close eye on them because they will overcook quickly. Remove from the heat and let them cool.Toasted pine nuts in a skillet.

  2. Combine the ingredients

    In a food processor, combine the fresh basil leaves, grated Parmesan cheese, toasted nuts, and garlic cloves. Process the ingredients until no whole leaves remain, about 10 to 15 seconds.Basil pesto ingredients in the bowl of a food processor.

  3. Add the olive oil

    With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the extra-virgin olive oil until the mixture comes together into a smooth and paste-like consistency. Stop the processor and scrape down the sides a couple times as needed.Basil pesto in the bowl of food processor.

  4. Season

    Taste the pesto and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to your liking. If you want a brighter flavor, stir in a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. The lemon juice also helps preserve the fresh green color of the basil.

  5. Store or use

    You can use the pesto immediately or store it for later use. To store, transfer the pesto to an airtight container and cover the surface with a thin layer of olive oil to prevent oxidation. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen for 3 to 4 months. Enjoy the fresh and aromatic flavors of this homemade basil pesto!

Basil pesto sauce in a white ramekin on a wooden board.

Frequently asked questions

What is a good substitute for pine nuts in pesto?

A great substitute for pine nuts in pesto is walnuts. Walnuts have a similar nutty flavor and slightly softer texture, making them an excellent alternative in a basic basil pesto recipe. Not only do walnuts offer a delicious taste, but they are also more budget-friendly compared to pine nuts, which can be quite expensive.


What kind of basil is best for pesto?

The best type of basil for pesto is the classic Genovese basil which is a variety of sweet basil known for its large, tender, and aromatic leaves. It has a strong and distinct basil flavor with a sweet and slightly peppery note, making it the perfect choice for creating the traditional and authentic taste of pesto. However, if Genovese basil is not available, you can still make delicious pesto using other types of basil, such as Thai basil or lemon basil, which have their unique flavors that can add an interesting twist to the traditional pesto recipe.


How long does fresh homemade pesto last?

Fresh homemade pesto can typically last for about 4 to 7 days when stored properly in the refrigerator. To extend its shelf life, store the pesto in an airtight container, ensuring there is a thin layer of olive oil on the surface to prevent oxidation. Alternatively, you can freeze homemade pesto for up to 3 to 4 months. When you want to use frozen pesto, simply thaw it in the refrigerator or at room temperature, and give it a good stir before enjoying its deliciousness once again!

Fresh basil pesto in a white ramekin with a spoon.

More delicious Maplevine Kitchen recipes to try!

Recipe Card

Just Your Basic Homemade Basil Pesto Recipe

Ready to unleash your inner chef? Here's a classic and foolproof recipe for fresh homemade basil pesto, a dynamic green sauce that will take your home cooking to the next level. With simple ingredients and straightforward steps, get ready to create a smooth and flavorful pesto like a pro!
By: AllieAllie Cleveland
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 16 (makes about 1 cup)
Calories 70 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts you can also use walnuts
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled and sliced
  • cup Parmesan cheese freshly grated
  • cup extra virgin olive oil good quality
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice optional adds a brightness
  • kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Toast the Nuts (optional): Ready to take your pesto game up a notch? Let's toast those nuts! If you're like me and adore a slightly nuttier flavor, this step is a must-do. So heat a dry skillet over medium heat and add the nuts. Toast them for a few minutes, stirring frequently until they are lightly golden. Remove from the heat and let them cool.
  • Combine the Ingredients: In a food processor, combine the fresh basil leaves, grated Parmesan cheese, toasted nuts, and garlic cloves. Process the ingredients until no whole leaves remain, about 10-15 seconds.
  • Add the Olive Oil: With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the extra-virgin olive oil until the mixture comes together into a smooth and paste-like consistency.
  • Season: Taste the pesto and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to your liking. If you want a brighter flavor, stir in a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. The lemon juice also helps preserve the fresh green color of the basil.
  • Store or Use: You can use the pesto immediately or store it for later use. To store, transfer the pesto to an airtight container and cover the surface with a thin layer of olive oil to prevent oxidation. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen for several months.

Recipe Notes

What is a good substitute for pine nuts in pesto?
A great substitute for pine nuts in pesto is walnuts. Walnuts have a similar nutty flavor and slightly softer texture, making them an excellent alternative in a basic basil pesto recipe. Not only do walnuts offer a delicious taste, but they are also more budget-friendly compared to pine nuts, which can be quite expensive.
How long does fresh homemade pesto last?
Fresh homemade pesto can typically last for about 4 to 7 days when stored properly in the refrigerator. To extend its shelf life, store the pesto in an airtight container, ensuring there is a thin layer of olive oil on the surface to prevent oxidation. Alternatively, you can freeze homemade pesto for up to 3 to 4 months. When you want to use frozen pesto, simply thaw it in the refrigerator or at room temperature, and give it a good stir before enjoying its deliciousness once again!

Nutrition

Calories: 70kcal | Carbohydrates: 0.9g | Protein: 1.3g | Fat: 7.1g | Saturated Fat: 1.2g | Cholesterol: 2mg | Sodium: 91mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 0.6g

*Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Maplevine Kitchen makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.

Keyword fresh basil, fresh herbs, garlic, pasta sauce, pine nuts, summer recipes
Did you make this recipe? Leave a comment below and let us know how it was!

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