This homemade Basil Pesto is easy to make and absolutely delicious! Spread the basil pesto over a slice of bread or mix it into a pasta dish, no matter how you choose to use it, you’re going to love it!

A white plate with fresh basil pesto on it.

A simple and fresh sauce

Pesto is a spring and summer staple, but it can be used all year long. In our house we love it so much we use it on just about everything. This basil pesto recipe can be used in some basil pesto pasta, smothered over a cooked chicken, tossed with homemade ravioli, or even used as a sauce base for pizza.

You can find countless recipes with pesto in it, so there’s no doubt you’ll find plenty of basil pesto uses you’ll want to try!

Basil pesto ingredients

Fresh basil. Using fresh basil we create the flavor and green color that this sauce needs. If you have your own basil plant, you can find that this is a very cost-effective recipe too!

Pine nuts. Toasted pine nuts are a great ingredient in pesto because it adds a nice consistency and nutty flavor that works so well in many dishes. Don’t worry if you buy them untoasted (we’re going to toast them ourselves!) 

Garlic cloves. We’re going to want 2 garlic cloves for this pesto sauce because they add a lot of traditional pesto flavor.

Salt and pepper. You can add salt and pepper to taste to adjust the flavor of the recipe to your own personal standards.

Grated parmesan cheese. Parmesan cheese is a very popular and key ingredient in pesto sauces unless you’re purposely trying to find an alternative for a vegan or dairy free version, we want the cheese to stay because it adds so much flavor and rich goodness.

Olive oil. A very popular oil used in Italy is olive oil because it works great with many of the recipes. In this sauce it helps work as the liquid that blends everything together and helps the flavors to meld together to be a cohesive sauce we love.

A food processor full of basil pesto ingredients.

How to make basil pesto

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F degrees and spread out your pine nuts on a baking sheet. 
  2. Once the oven is preheated, place the baking sheet of nuts into the oven for 8-10 minutes, stirring at the halfway mark. Once golden brown, remove from oven and let cool.
  3. Place your basil, toasted nuts, parmesan, salt, pepper, and garlic in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth.
  4. While the food processor is running, slowly pour in the olive oil and let it continue blending for another 30 seconds to make sure it’s extra smooth.
  5. Remove the pesto and place it into an airtight container. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for longer.

Basil pesto in a small white bowl against a white background.

 

FAQs and Recipe Tips

Basil Pesto Variations

For a stronger flavor use Romano cheese.

Basil is a strong and very aromatic herb. Some may not like the overly strong flavor and taste of a full basil pesto. To mellow out the flavor use half basil leaves and half spinach leaves. You’ll still be able to taste the basil but it won’t be as pronounced.

You don’t have to use pine nuts in homemade pesto. In fact feel free to use walnuts or even pistachios. I use pistachios to make kale pesto and it’s divine.

Why is my pesto sauce bitter?

If you think your sauce is bitter after blending and making it, it could be from a simple reason. Using extra-virgin olive oil can leave behind a bitter note in pesto due to the bitter attributes in the olive oil itself. 

How to make basil pesto vegan

Instead of using parmesan cheese, add in 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast. This will give a cheesy flavor without the actual cheese needing to be involved.

Tips for freezing basil pesto

If you plan on freezing your pesto sauce, it’s best to not add the cheese to the recipe until you’re ready to serve. The cheese doesn’t freeze very well and you can easily stir some grated parmesan into the pesto before serving.

Another good tip is to freeze it in small batches so you don’t have to thaw it all at once. Using an ice cube tray you can get small portions really easily. After they’ve frozen solid, simply remove from tray and place in a Ziploc baggie and continue freezing until you’re ready to use!

Green pesto on a white plate sitting on a grey napkin.

My favorite pesto recipes

A white plate with fresh basil pesto on it.
Print Review
5 from 1 vote

Basil Pesto

Easy, fresh, basil pesto.
Prep Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 15 mins
Servings: 2 cups

Ingredients
 

  • 2 1/2 cups fresh basil (packed)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts - toasted
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • pinch black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Instructions
 

  • Add the basil, toasted pine nuts, garlic cloves, salt, pepper, and parmesan to the bowl of your food processor (or blender). Pulse until the ingredients are incorporated.  
  • With the food processor on, stream in the olive oil. I like my pesto a tad chunky, so I don't overdo it with the food processor. Taste the pesto, add salt and pepper to taste. 

Notes

For a stronger flavor use Romano cheese.  
Basil is a strong and very aromatic herb. Some may not like the overly strong flavor and taste of a full basil pesto. To mellow out the flavor use half basil leaves and half spinach leaves. You'll still be able to taste the basil but it won't be as pronounced.
You don't have to use pine nuts in homemade pesto. In fact feel free to use walnuts or even pistachios. I use pistachios to make kale pesto and it's divine. 
To make vegan: Instead of using parmesan cheese, add in 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast. This will give a cheesy flavor without the actual cheese needing to be involved.
Pesto will stay good in the fridge for about 1 week.
To freeze: If you plan on freezing your pesto sauce, it’s best to not add the cheese to the recipe until you’re ready to serve. The cheese doesn’t freeze very well and you can easily stir some grated parmesan into the pesto before serving.
Another good tip is to freeze it in small batches so you don’t have to thaw it all at once. Using an ice cube tray you can get small portions really easily. After they’ve frozen solid, simply remove from tray and place in a Ziploc baggie and continue freezing until you’re ready to use!

Nutrition

Calories: 700kcal (35%)Carbohydrates: 4g (1%)Protein: 12g (24%)Fat: 72g (111%)Saturated Fat: 12g (60%)Cholesterol: 17mg (6%)Sodium: 985mg (41%)Potassium: 212mg (6%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Vitamin A: 1780IU (36%)Vitamin C: 6.4mg (8%)Calcium: 355mg (36%)Iron: 2.4mg (13%)
author: Whitney
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
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