Learn how to make a homemade basil pesto recipe with less than ten ingredients and in just ten minutes. Bursting with fresh, vibrant flavors, this versatile condiment is miles ahead of anything you’ll find in the store — use it on pasta, sandwiches, and more!

A bowl of basil pesto with a spoon lifting up a scoop.

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This makes sense because the sauce was originally made by pounding the ingredients in a mortar and pestle.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. 
A fresh basil plant.

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!

  1. Combine. Add all the ingredients except the oil to the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until they are smooth. 
  2. Scrape. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. 
  3. Emulsify. With the food processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil to form an emulsion and create a smooth consistency. 
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03/13/2024 02:04 pm GMT

Variations

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! 
A spoon scooping up a spoonful of homemade basil pesto from a bowl.

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: 

Common Questions About this Homemade Basil Pesto Recipe

How long does homemade basil pesto last? 

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. 

Can I freeze this recipe? 

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’s solid. Then, transfer the cubes to an airtight container. Thaw them in the fridge before using them. 

What is a good substitute for pine nuts? 

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

Searching for more simple yet flavorful sauces and spreads? We’ve got you covered with these easy recipes! 

A spoonful of homemade basil pesto.

Homemade Basil Pesto Recipe

5 from 1 vote
Author: Food Dolls
Servings: 6 servings
Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Learn how to make a homemade basil pesto recipe with just nine ingredients and ten minutes for a condiment better than anything store-bought!

Ingredients  

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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.

Equipment

Notes

To Freeze: Transfer the pesto to an ice cube tray, and freeze for 3-4 hours or until solid. Transfer the cubes to a sealable bag, and freeze for 2-3 months. Thaw in the fridge before using. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 347kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 22g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 462mg | Potassium: 84mg | Fiber: 0.5g | Sugar: 0.5g | Vitamin A: 555IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 217mg | Iron: 1mg

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

Like this recipe?Please leave a comment!

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Meet Alia & Radwa

Welcome to Food Dolls! We’re so glad you found us. We are Alia and Radwa, sisters who want to share simple and easy recipes with you. We hope you find recipes here that you enjoy making as much as we do! Learn more about us!

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