This fresh and delicious basil pesto recipe is super simple to make! This recipe is so versatile and can be added to so many dishes. The perfect way to use up that fresh basil from the garden!
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Easy Homemade Pesto
We had an over abundance of basil in our garden last year, so we made lots of homemade basil pesto last summer! It was so yummy. I meant to share this recipe last year, but the time got away from me. It’s so easy to make and comes together in just a few minutes.
This fresh basil pesto is so versatile and can be added to so many dishes! It tastes amazing on a pizza, sandwiches, pesto chicken, cooked pasta, spaghetti squash, bread…pretty much anything. Pesto just makes everything taste so yummy!
What is Pesto?
Pesto, also referred to as a pesto Genovese, is a sauce made by combining fresh basil leaves, olive oil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and garlic. There are many variations of basil pesto and I often include lemon juice to brighten the flavors of mine!
Once you make your own homemade, you will see how simple it is and never buy store bought again!
Key Ingredients Needed
Simple and fresh ingredients are the star of the show in this homemade basil pesto. Making it from scratch means no preservatives or unnecessary additivities that you might find in a store-bought version.
Find the full printable recipe with specific measurements below.
- Basil: Fresh basil leaves are what makes this recipe. You also want to remove the stems, as they are a bit tough and have a bitter taste.
- Pine nuts: These are a classic nut to use for pesto and give it a creamy texture. You could substitute with almonds, walnuts, pistachios or even sunflower seeds if needed.
- Parmesan cheese: Technically you could omit, but I love the creamy flavor it brings to the sauce. Use freshly grated parmesan cheese for the best flavor.
- Olive oil: Make sure to use good quality extra-virgin olive oil since it is one of the stars of the show.
- Kosher Salt and Black Pepper: These seasonings are what bring the flavors all together.
Below are some helpful tips and variations you can try. Pesto is a pretty forgiving sauce, so most of the swaps below shouldn’t alter the flavor too much. Just make sure to taste as you go and add more or less of each of the ingredients until you’ve reached your desired flavor.
- Nuts. Pine nuts can be swapped for walnuts or pistachios.
- Roasted garlic. Using roasted garlic cloves is an easy way to add another layer of flavor to your pesto. It gives the sauce a sweet, caramelized taste that pairs wonderfully with the other ingredients.
- Greens. For a more subtle basil flavor, use 1 cup basil and 1 cup spinach.
- Vegan version. Omit the cheese and make this dairy free vegan pesto instead.
- Lemon. If you’d like a little tang, you can squeeze in some fresh lemon juice.
- Spice. Add a sprinkle of red pepper flakes for a spicier basil pesto.
- Herbs. Add in other herbs such as parsley or cilantro for a more unique taste.
How to Make Basil Pesto
Ready in just 5 minutes, it doesn’t get better than this easy basil pesto recipe. All you need is a food processor or blender, and you’ll have delicious homemade pesto in no time!
- Combine: Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender. Pulse until chopped.
- Blend: Add the oil and puree until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. Add more olive oil, as needed.
- Consistency. If the consistency of your pesto is still a bit thick after blending it together, drizzle in a bit more oil to thin it out. Just don’t go overboard…a little at a time until the texture is just right.
- Taste as you go. Start with the base ingredients, then blend and give the pesto a taste. Add more basil, garlic, lemon or salt and pepper until you’ve reached your desired flavor.
- Sneak in more greens. Give the pesto more nutrients by adding in an extra handful of spinach. It’s a great way to sneak in more greens for your little ones without impacting the flavor too much!
You’ll need at least a few cups of basil to get that bold flavor that most pesto sauces have. I typically use around 2 cups, but you could always add in a little bit more if you like a super fragrant taste. Make sure to pack the leaves into the measuring cup to ensure you’re using the correct amount.
Check out my list above, but we love it on pretty much any meat, sandwich or pasta. It also tastes amazing as a sauce for pizza.
While fresh basil is definitely my preference, you could use spinach, kale or arugula instead.
Ways to Serve Basil Pesto
The options are endless when it comes to how to use basil! Below are some of our favorite ways to enjoy it.
- Bread: Use it to dip a piece or crusty french bread or spread some over top a slice of artisan bread. You can even make my favorite cheesy pesto pull-apart bread for a delicious appetizer idea.
- Meat: A drizzle of homemade pesto on top of grilled chicken or grilled salmon is the perfect way to add more flavor.
- Pizza: Make a spinach pesto pizza with my easy homemade pizza dough. Or for a quicker option, try this French bread pizza.
- Pasta: This spaghetti pesto, white chicken lasagna or sheet pan gnocchi are family favorites. Or make a cold pesto chicken pasta salad during the summer.
- Soup and sandwich: Spread on top of a grilled caprese sandwich or add a drizzle in a bowl of tomato basil soup.
Storing + Freezing
If you have leftovers, pour the pesto into an airtight container or jar and store in the fridge. It will keep in the fridge for about a week.
If you don’t think you’ll use the whole batch within a week, you can easily freeze it! Add the pesto sauce to an ice cube tray, freeze and then add the frozen cubes to a ziploc baggie and store in freezer for up to 3 months. I like to thaw the pesto cubes by placing the freezer bag in a bowl of lukewarm water.
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- 2 cups fresh basil , stems removed
- 3-4 Tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 ½ teaspoons garlic , minced
- 1/3-1/2 cup parmesan cheese , grated
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil , more as needed
- ½ lemon , optional
- Salt , to taste
- Ground black pepper , to taste
- In a food processor or blender, pulse the basil, pine nuts, garlic, and parmesan until chopped.
- Add the oil and puree until smooth. Add more olive oil, as needed, to reach your desired consistency. Squeeze in fresh lemon juice, if desired. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Store in an airtight container or jar in the fridge up to 1 week.
- Garlic: If you’d like to take the flavor up a notch, try adding a couple cloves of roasted garlic.
- Spice: If you’d like to take up the heat add a pinch of red pepper flakes.
- Greens: You could swap the basil for spinach, kale or arugula (although those will taste slightly more bitter).
- Nuts: You could also swap the nuts for almonds, walnuts, pistachios or sunflower seeds.
Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.
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