Homemade Basil Pesto is a favorite condiment to keep on hand. Try this easy, homemade pesto recipe to brighten pasta, salads, roasted veggies, or chicken!
During the summer, my herb pots are overflowing. I make all sorts of dressings and condiments with my herbs, however, I make pesto to keep around in my refrigerator and I use it on a weekly basis. I use this Homemade Basil Pesto on grilled veggies and fish, as a topper for soup, I dollop it on my scrambled eggs, or as a marinade for chicken. It's a lazy summertime easy cooking technique that also freezes well for winter evenings.
Ingredients for Homemade Pesto
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- Parmesan Cheese
- Pine Nuts
See the recipe card for quantities.
What is Pesto and How Do I make it?
Traditional Genovese Pesto is a blend of fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, extra-virgin olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. It is blended in a food processor or blender until smooth and then stored in the refrigerator. It's simple to make and can be varied by season or your mood.
Place your pine nuts into a cold pan. Turn the heat to medium and toast the nuts until golden. Do not let them burn. Take off the heat.
Place the pine nuts and garlic into a food processor or blender. Chop until mixed and turns to butter. Add in your basil leaves and continue to mix.
Add in your olive oil and combine until you get to a sauce-like consistency.
Mix in the grated cheese.
Hint: While I use a Cuisinart to make pesto, you can use a blender. Just keep scraping down the side and adding the olive oil slowly.
How to create variations of Pesto
Once you have made the classic homemade basil pesto recipe, you can try changing it up with lots of variations:
- Nuts - Swap out the pine nuts for any nut of your choice! I love using pistachio, walnut, and almonds!
- Nut-Free - You do not need to add nuts to pesto! However, you can also try hemp seeds or pumpkin to add a bit of texture.
- Herbs - You can swap out basil if you are not a fan. One of my favorite combinations is actually mint and pistachio! Or, use parsley or cilantro for a milder or different flavor.
- Herb-Free - You don't really even need the herbs either! Swap out the basil for spinach, kale, or even arugula.
- Creaminess - Add extra creaminess by adding half of an avocado.
- Punch it up - To add a bit more punch, you can add in a roasted red pepper or some marinated artichoke hearts. Try adding 3-4 sun-dried tomatoes or a charred jalapeno.
- Cheese - You don't need to stick with Parmesan cheese! You can omit it and add nutritional yeast instead. Or, add in any grated hard cheese of your choice.
The possibilities are endless as you can see!
I made Basil Pesto, now how do I store it?
Store this homemade basil pesto recipe in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 4 days. Cover the top of the pesto with a thin layer of olive oil so the pesto stays green and fresh. The olive oil will seal the top. You can also freeze the pesto in small cubes for up to 6 months. You will have the pesto to use all winter long!
If you choose to freeze the pesto, freeze it in an ice cube tray. I use this 2 tablespoon version and it is easy to pop out the cubes and place them into a freezer bag.
When storing the pesto in the refrigerator, cover the pesto with a thin layer of olive oil to keep the surface from turning brown.
The obvious answer is to toss the pesto with pasta or zucchini noodles for a delicious dinner. However, you can use this as a condiment for vegetables, as a topper on soup, in a sandwich, in a grain bowl, in a Caprese salad, on pizza, or so much more!
Yes! Pesto is full of antioxidants. In addition, garlic, basil, olive oil, and pine nuts are also rich in antioxidants which contribute to a healthier body.
No. Heating pesto will degrade the herbs and the flavor and aroma will change. It is best to serve the pesto cool or at room temperature. If you are serving it warm, make sure to add it in at the end of your cooking time to preserve the taste.
Pesto tastes bright and herby from the basil, salty and rich from the cheeses, nutty from the pine nuts. It should be garlicky, with pleasant grassiness from good-quality olive oil.
Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:
These are my favorite dishes to serve with [this recipe]:
Homemade Basil Pesto Recipe
- 2 cup fresh basil
- 2 tablespoon pine nuts toasted
- 2 garlic cloves
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup parmesan cheese grated
- Combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor.
- Blend and store in an airtight container.