Learn how to make a homemade basil pesto recipe with less than ten ingredients and just ten minutes. Vibrant and refreshing, it’s a versatile condiment that’s tastier than anything you’ll find in the store!
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What Is Pesto?
A refreshing condiment made with fresh herbs, pesto is a sauce that originated in Genoa, Italy. Its name can be traced back to the Italian word “pestare,” which means, “to crush or pound.”
This makes sense because the sauce was originally made by pounding the ingredients in a mortar and pestle. Today, most people use a food processor, but the base of fresh herbs and nuts remains the same.
What Are the Ingredients in Basil Pesto?
There’s not really a right or wrong way to make pesto. However, for our recipe, we kept things simple, creating a refreshing herbaceous flavor with just a handful of ingredients!
- Pine Nuts – These add a bit of structure and texture and a rich, nutty flavor.
- Fresh Basil – Basil forms the base of the pesto. Use fresh, vibrant leaves, and make sure to rinse and pat them dry.
- Garlic – Whole, fresh cloves work best.
- Lemon Juice and Lemon Zest – This helps brighten the taste and enhances the flavor of the rest of the ingredients.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – This helps blend the ingredients, creating a smooth, creamy sauce. It’s important to use high-quality olive oil because there are so few ingredients!
- Salt and Black Pepper – Use as little or as much as you prefer.
- Parmesan Cheese – Adds a bit of saltiness and helps the pesto hold together. For the best results, use a block of Parmesan, and grate it yourself.
Easy as 1, 2, 3! How to Make a Homemade Basil Pesto Recipe
Once you realize how easy basil pesto is to make at home, you’ll never go back to over-priced, store-bought versions again!
- Combine. Add all the ingredients except the oil to the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until they are smooth.
- Scrape. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Emulsify. With the food processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil to form an emulsion and create a smooth consistency.
Feel free to experiment with different ingredients to make this basil pesto recipe your own!
- Add Different Herbs. Add to or replace the basil with different herbs such as cilantro or Italian parsley.
- Include Greens. For a more subtle flavor and extra nutrients, replace half of the basil with baby spinach.
- Swap the Cheese. Replace the Parmesan with pecorino-romano, asiago, or grana padano cheese.
- Substitute the Pine Nuts. If you can’t find pine nuts, walnuts, cashews, and almonds all work great, too!
Ways to Use Basil Pesto
There’s not much this homemade basil pesto recipe can’t be used for! Some of our favorite ways to put it to use include:
- With meat like cooked shrimp, fish, roasted chicken, or even beef.
- As a sandwich spread with recipes like our turkey caprese sandwiches.
- Tossed with pasta dishes like one pot creamy pesto pasta, pasta salad with pesto, and one pot pesto pasta with shrimp.
- Over scrambled eggs or in egg muffin sandwiches.
- As a dip with pita or focaccia.
- On grilled cheese sandwiches.
- Swirled into soups.
- Paired with hummus.
Common Questions About this Homemade Basil Pesto Recipe
Stored in an airtight container in the fridge, homemade pesto will stay fresh for up to one week. For the best results, we recommend pouring a small amount of oil on top to prevent it from browning.
Yes! Pesto can be stored in the freezer for two to three months. Spoon it into ice cube trays, and transfer it to the freezer for a few hours or until it is solid. Then, transfer the cubes to an airtight container. Thaw them in the fridge before using them.
If you can’t find pine nuts or don’t want to spend the money, swap them out 1:1 for walnuts, pistachios, or almonds. Or, for a nut-free pesto recipe, use pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, or cooked and cooled edamame!
More Homemade Condiments
Looking for more homemade sauces and spreads? We’ve got you covered with the recipes below!
Homemade Basil Pesto Recipe
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 2 cups packed fresh basil
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt more or less to taste
- 1/2 teapoon black pepper more or less to taste
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 juice of half a lemon
- 3/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
- 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.1/4 cup pine nuts, 2 cups packed fresh basil, 3 cloves garlic, 2 teaspoons lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teapoon black pepper, 1/2 juice of half a lemon, 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 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.3/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.