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Homemade Basil Pesto

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Homemade pesto is one of the best ways to use fresh basil. This basil pesto has pine nuts, garlic, lemon zest and juice, parmesan cheese, and extra virgin olive oil!

basil leaves, a head of garlic, a whole lemon, pine nuts, and a block of Parmesan

Ingredients For Pesto Sauce

Pesto can really be adjusted to your liking. We don’t think there is a wrong way to pesto! You can change everything from the type of cheese you put in, to the herbs, and nuts! Feel free to play around with this recipe and experiment with your favorite flavors!

First of all, basil is such a great herb, you want to play around with other herbs, such as adding a touch of cilantro, or Italian parsley. Second, you can substitute half of the basil with some fresh baby spinach if you prefer a more subtle flavor. Lastly, this is where you can substitute the  fresh grated parmesan cheese for a  stronger cheese, such as Romano,

If you can’t find pine nuts, you can use walnuts, or cashews, or almonds!

What is Pesto?

It’s a typically bright green sauce that originated in Genoa, Italy. The word “pesto” is past tense of the Genoese verb “pestare,” which means “to crush, or pound.”  Pesto has been a round for hundreds of years, and is typically made by crushing the ingredients with a mortar and pestle. Nowadays, the more modern and easy way to make it is by using a food processor. 

How To Store Pesto

It is important to note that pesto darkens when exposed to air. Furthermore, to store, you want to cover it tightly with plastic wrap or in an air tight jar. You want to avoid air as much as possible, this will help the pesto stay bright green.

How To Freeze Pesto

  1. Spoon the pesto sauce into ice cube trays
  2. Place the ice cube trays freezer for 3-4 hours or until frozen solid.
  3. Remove the frozen basil pesto cubes from the trays and place in a plastic freezer bag, making sure to remove as much air.
  4. Place the bag in the freezer.
  5. Store in the freezer for 2-3 months.
a jar of homemade basil pesto with a spoonful of pesto on the side
basil leaves, a block of Parmesan, a head of garlic, a whole lemon, and pine nuts

Homemade Basil Pesto

Food Dolls
Skip store bought pesto for this easy homemade recipe!
Prep Time 10 minutes


  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt (more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper (more or less to taste)
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 juice of half a lemon


  • In a food processor add pine nuts, basil, garlic cloves, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. Pulse until everything is blended finely.
  • Scrape down the sides.
  • While the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady small stream. Slowly adding the olive oil will cause the pesto to emulsify, and will also help keep the olive oil from separating.
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Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Recipes Using Pesto

Baked Pesto Chicken

Turkey Caprese Sandwich

Ways to Eat Pesto

Pesto adds a great burst of flavor into food. Here are several ways to use pesto.

  • Spread on bread
  • Use as a dip
  • Add a scoop to pasta sauce
  • Make a homemade pesto butter
  • Use it on roasted veggies
  • Stuff, or top chicken
  • Pesto eggs
  • Grilled cheese sandwich

So many ways!

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