Homemade Basil Pesto Recipe

This easy and delicious homemade basil pesto recipe is an annual summer must make recipe!

A bowl of green homemade basil pesto on a marble slab.

As the temps dip here in Minnesota, I am reminded of this classic recipe that everyone needs in their kitchen repertoire. Homemade Basil Pesto is a perennial favorite, and if you make enough, you can keep on enjoying it all winter long.

I tend to forget about it until the bounty of the late summer arrives. Okay, let’s be honest: the dang snow is coming, and my basil outside is in danger! 

Why I Love this Recipe

There’s something so satisfying about growing your own basil and using its vibrant green leaves to create this tasty homemade basil pesto.

From its simplicity and versatility to the happiness it delivers, this recipe has a special place in my heart and kitchen!

The charm of pesto lies in its ability to elevate any meal, from pasta and paninis to salads and dips.

I’ll share the fresh ingredients and the creative possibilities that make it a treasured kitchen essential.

Join me in creating this delicious sauce and discover the endless ways it can season your dishes.

Or, try this pasta with broccoli for an entirely different way to add a healthy “green” to your dish.

Ingredients for Basil Pesto

Fresh Basil Leaves You can buy basil in the store, at most farmers’ markets, or grow it yourself in your actual ground or in a pot. Super easy, friend!

Clip all the leaves off the stems and wash them gently in water.

Pine Nuts This variety of nuts is now widely available at most grocery stores.

Pine nuts, also called piñón (Spanish: [piˈɲon]), pignoli (Italian: [piˈnɔːli]), or pignoli, are rich in taste and high in fat, so they create a super smooth sauce. 

Moreover, they are even better when they are lightly toasted. More details are below.

You can also use other nut varieties. Be creative; try walnuts, raw almonds, pecans, or pepitas.

Parmesan Cheese Buy a chunk and grate it for the most delicious flavor.

You can also buy fresh parmigiana in some delicatessen departments, which are already grated in a bag or tub. This will not be as flavorful, but it will definitely still taste great!

Fresh Whole Garlic Cloves Be sure to buy fresh garlic bulbs for this.

You do not need to mince ahead of time because your food processor will do all the work for you. Superfast whiplash.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Use a good-quality oil to make yours the best basil pesto recipe EVA!

Salt and Black Pepper Taste as you season to get it just right. Don’t be shy about seasoning your pesto with lots of S and P.

How to Toast Pine Nuts

See below for the best way to toast pinenuts. Toast the pine nuts until they are a beautiful light golden brown. Pick one of these three easy ideas.

Stovetop Method for Toasting Nuts

Toast the pine nuts over medium-low heat on your stovetop in a dry, medium skillet. I like to do it this way so that I can watch closely. This takes roughly 3 to 5 minutes. Stir constantly and watch closely.

They can burn easily! Been there. Done that. They are ready when they are golden brown and fragrant. Immediately transfer them to a plate to prevent the hot pan from continuing to cook them.

Toast Pine Nuts in the Oven

To toast the pine nuts in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°. Place the nuts on a baking sheet, flip them, and stir them about halfway through baking.

They are ready when they are golden brown, approximately 5–7 minutes. Immediately transfer them to a plate to stop the hot pan from continuing to cook them.

Use your Microwave to Toast Pine Nuts

Spread the pine nuts on a microwave-safe plate in a single layer. Microwave on high power for 1 minute.

Toss around and microwave again in 30-second intervals. Stir constantly to balance out the heat. Keep on checking. They are ready when they are golden brown.

How to Make Basil Pesto

Here are the step-by-step instructions to make a batch of homemade basil pesto. Easy peasy.

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homemade basil recipe in a white bowl

Homemade Basil Pesto


  • Author: Cindy Munson
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 2 cups 1x

Description

The best, time tested classic and delicious recipe for homemade basil pesto! Save this one, you’ll use it for years to come.


Ingredients

Scale

1/4 cup pine nuts or other variety

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 cloves garlic

2 cups fresh basil, no stems

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

sea salt, to taste

black pepper, to taste


Instructions

Toast the pine nuts in a pan, the oven or microwave. (see notes) Transfer to the food processor immediately to cool. Add parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and garlic. Blend until finely ground. Add fresh basil pulse again.

While your food processor is running, slowly pour in the olive oil through the feed tube. Scrape down the sides as you go. Blend until everything is smooth and nicely combined, leave some flecks of basil for beauty! If your mixture is too thick, you can thin it out with more olive oil if necessary.

Taste test your pesto creation. Adjust seasonings to your personal preferences, with extra salt or pepper. You can also throw in a bit more Parm, basil or garlic to get the consistency and flavor just right.

Serve immediately or store in an airtight container. To store, pour a thin layer of olive oil on top to prevent oxidation and browning. Cover the top of the container with plastic wrap. Press gently on the surface to remove air. Refrigerate. Keeps well for up to 1 week.

You can also freeze pesto sauce in an ice cube tray or in spoonfuls on a tray. Transfer to a freezer bag once frozen. Thaw the exact portion you need later on.

Notes

Garlic. Use minced garlic from a jar if you don’t have fresh garlic.

Nuts. If you don’t have pine nuts, substitute them for another nut variety, such as almonds, pistachios, or walnuts. Or go nut-free and instead use sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

Cheese. Swap parmesan cheese (parmigiano-reggiano) with another hard cheese, such as Italian pecorino romano or asiago.

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Appetizers
  • Method: Blending
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: Pesto, alla genovese, sauce, Italian, Italy, crushed garlic, pine nuts, basil leaves, Parmigiano-Reggiano, parmesan, cheese, olive oil

Recipe Card powered byTasty Recipes

Nutrition Label. The nutritional values listed are an approximation based on the ingredients in the recipe card. Actual amounts may vary.

Kitchen Tools for Making Pesto

Here’s the kitchen equipment that is most helpful for making pesto. This is a short list!

I would recommend a food processor for the pesto and a frying pan or cookie sheet for the pine nuts. How’s that for simple? 

The Most Popular and Best Food Processors 

You can probably use any size food processor for pesto, but before you purchase, consider all your other needs in the kitchen.

This machine does sooo much! Below are my short A-list of processors. I highly recommend both of these. These are the newest versions of the two that I own and use constantly.

Cuisinart 14-Cup Food Processor HERE

Cuisinart food processor

 

Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus HERE

Cuisinart food processor

My Favorite Frypans and Cookie Sheets

When it comes to cooking pans, I have developed favorites and opinions.

I’ve listed the ones that I use below, but again, any frypan or cookie sheet will work for this recipe, so you can definitely use what you have, too.

Nordic Ware Aluminum2-pack Half Sheet HERE

2 Nordicware cookie sheets

AirBake Natural 2 Pack Cookie Sheet Set HERE

2 Airbake Cookie Sheets

What Do You Eat with Basil Pesto?

There are so many delicious recipes you need to try that use pestos of all kinds. Salads, pasta, and spreads, oh my! I will be adding some of my favorites to the blog soon.

Below is a simple angel hair pasta with the bright and delicious addition of grape tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella slices.

Learn how to cook grape tomatoes for pasta using just a few simple ingredients and very little prep work.

homemade basil pesto with angel hair pasta in a white bowl

Pesto sauce works beautifully over pasta, ravioli, or gnocchi. You can also sprinkle a bit of pesto into other sauces. For example, try it in this delicious sauce for lobster ravioli.

For the low-carb folks, for the dish below, I used Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi as the base. 

You could also use zucchini noodles (zoodles) to make it healthy, low-carb, and gluten-free. Did I mention fast and yummy, too?

For another delicious way to add a healthy green flavor to your dish, try this pasta with broccoli.

If you try this homemade basil pesto recipe for yourself, please let me know in the comments below. Or if you share a picture, please tag me #bebraveandbloom.

Buon appetito!
xo,
Cindy

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