A quick 5-minute Basil Pesto packs so much flavor, it’s hard not to eat it right out of the jar!
It is perfect on pasta but also makes a great dipping sauce for bread, veggies, and a brush-on-marinade for meat! Stir it into a bit of mayonnaise for a delicious dip!
What is Pesto?
Pesto originated in Italy and is made with basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts (or walnuts or almonds) salt, and a hard cheese like Parmesan or pecorino romano.
We love to make this in big batches and freeze in ice cube trays to add an extra pop of flavor when making pasta sauce or using it to make pasta salads for summer (or even adding it to Caprese salad or bruschetta)!
Leftover pesto is also great as a dipping sauce for homemade garlic bread. With a versatile recipe like this, how can you go wrong!
Ingredients & Variations
BASIL For a classic pesto we use fresh basil! This is the perfect way to use the abundance of fresh basil in your garden or from a farmer’s market. But any fresh basil will do.
If you’re short on basil, add in some other herbs or greens (parsley, dill or even spinach work well)!
OLIVE OIL A mild-flavored oil works great for this recipe letting the flavor of the herbs shine through. The most common oil for this is olive oil, you can also use canola oil, grapeseed oil, or avocado oil.
NUTS Pine nuts, almonds, or walnuts are all great in this recipe. They provide that perfect nutty balance you expect from a pesto!
Don’t have those on hand? Have fun experimenting with whatever nuts you do have! Be sure to shell them first and remove the skins if necessary. You can leave them on but they will provide a coarser texture.
CHEESE We love using parmesan cheese in this recipe! It is the perfect slightly salty hard cheese. Other great cheeses include Romano or Grana Padano.
How to Make Pesto
The key to a smooth and creamy basil pesto is the use of a food processor. If you don’t have one, a personal blender will do too.
- Pulse basil in a food processor with olive oil until a fine paste.
- Slowly add the remaining ingredients (from recipe below) in the order of the recipe and continue to pulse until smooth.
- Scrape down the sides of the food processor as needed.
Adjust salt as desired and serve in your favorite way.
Can You Freeze Pesto
Pesto is great for freezing!
- Scoop into a zippered bag and label it with the date. It should keep about 6 months.
- Another handy way to freeze pesto is to pour it into ice cube trays. Once the cubes are frozen, put them in a zippered bag and pull out a cube or two as needed.
It’s great to add to sauces, dips or soups, or even as a topping on a burger or scrambled eggs!
Delicious Pesto Recipes
- Herb Basil Pesto – with a variety of herbs!
- Pesto Pasta Salad – ready in 20 minutes!
- Homemade Potato Gnocchi – great tossed in pesto
- Creamy Pesto Pasta – the perfect family meal
- Pesto Mac and Cheese – a fun twist on a classic!
- Pesto Chicken – oven-baked with mozza
Did you love this Basil Pesto? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below!
Easy Homemade Basil Pesto
- 2 cups basil firm packed
- ½ cup parmesan or romano cheese, grated
- ¼ cup pine nuts walnuts or almonds
- 1 large garlic clove quartered
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Place basil in a food processor with 1 tablespoon of oil and blend into a paste.
- Slowly add remaining ingredients in order, scraping the sides as needed. Blend until smooth.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.
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Unfortunately, this did not hit the mark for me. I found later that it’s missing a very important ingredient-lemon. Which not only adds so much flavor, but also keeps the color of the basil a pretty light.
After tasting this version and being pretty disappointed, I added lots of lemon, lots more olive oil, more garlic, and a bit more salt and it was significantly improved in my opinion. I’m glad that other folks really loved this recipe, as I know that we all have different taste preferences.
Sorry to hear this recipe didn’t hit the mark for you Anna but thank you for sharing your additions!
This recipe was fail proof! I had never made pesto and the directions were clear and straight forward. I used a mixture of fresh basil, baby spinach and natural almonds. So so good!
So glad you loved it too Erin!
This is my go to pesto recipe, it’s always delicious!
I’m so glad you’ve loved it Kathy!
Great, simple pesto recipe. I’ve been trying different pesto recipes but they all come out too coarse. This recipe is absolutely perfect, and the results are a creamy, delicious pesto. I did put a little lemon juice in it to keep the color, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. This one is a keeper. Thank you, Holly!
I’m so glad you loved it Vinny!
This is how I make my Pesto but I add some fresh lemon juice. The lemon juice really enhances the flavors. One of our favorite ways to eat the pesto is with cheese tortellini. Delish!!!
I definitely agree Pam! It is amazing on cheese tortellini!