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12 minutes, 6 ingredients and Basil Pesto so delicious that you will never buy from store.

Basil Pesto

Homemade Basil Pesto recipe for your next pesto-inspired home cooked meal. 6 ingredients and a pesto so delicious you will always make it at home. Making pesto paste at home is not just economical but also a good way to appreciate the bright and clean flavor of fresh ingredients. Pesto is Gluten free, Preservative free. 

So today, get inspired, make some basil pesto. Next try homemade Pesto Pasta or Pesto Pizza for dinner. A restaurant-quality meal in comfort of your own home. Really, options are endless! 

Let's make some PESTO today.

PESTO

Pesto is a nutty green paste of aromatic herb, nuts and aged cheese such as parmesan. Basil Pesto is most popular among the green pesto of the culinary world. The classic Basil Pesto is made by grinding the fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, olive oil, and garlic to a coarse paste. Since recipe is so simple and need just a few ingredients... It is important to use good quality ingredients. Trust me, that makes all the difference in flavor.

Aromatic Herbs or Greens: You can also make green pesto with herbs such as cilantro, parsley and greens such as arugula, spinach, watercress leaves, carrot leaves.  

Nuts: Pine nuts is one the important basil pesto ingredient. These give most authentic Italian flavor to the pesto. But just like greens, you can use many other nuts such as pistachios, cashews, macadamia nuts or even walnuts, to make pesto.

Aged Hard Cheese: Another authentic Italian pesto ingredient, good quality Parmesan Cheese is key to a make a flavorful pesto. Please don't skip that.

Garlic: Any good sauce recipe benefit from a clove of garlic. No matter which cuisine, a little garlic makes everything better. So please add a clove of garlic in homemade pesto. It give extra depth of flavor to the pesto.

Olive Oil: Olive oil moistens the ground leaves to give pesto the signature paste consistency. Oil also work as natural preservative. 

Now you know, what makes Pesto a Pesto. Let me summarize the ingredients to make basil (green) pesto at home:

  1. Fresh Basil Leaves
  2. Olive Oil
  3. Pine nuts
  4. Garlic
  5. Parmesan Cheese
  6. Salt and Black Pepper

Few pesto recipes recommend to add lemon. Even though I'm fan of lemon in pesto sauce, the authentic Pesto does not need it. I recommend to make pesto without lemon. Add lemon juice if you prefer little tang in the pesto sauce pasta. Try my recipe for Creamy Pesto Pasta with hint of lemon.

Basil Pesto Ingredients

Making Pesto at home:

This pesto recipe is easy with simple, easy to follow step-by-step instructions. 

Once you have the ingredients, making pesto is super simple. I like to slightly toast the pine nuts which gives extra-nutty flavor to pesto. Once nuts are toasted, I add all pesto ingredients - basil leaves, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, garlic clove, and salt to a food processor. Process it until all ingredients are fine chopped. Next add olive oil in fine stream while processor running at slow speed until pesto comes together, is smooth and moistened in olive oil.

First chopping all ingredients except olive oil in food processor helps release oils from pesto, garlic which give pesto extra boost of flavor. This step also helps fine chop the pieces of parmesan cheese. I don't grate the parmesan before mixing to pesto. Just rough chop parmesan, add to processor with basil. Process until all ingredients including cheese are fine chopped, then add olive oil to create pesto. 

MONEY SAVING TIP: Did you know homemade basil pesto cost half the price of store bought? Economical, right?! Plus it is preservative free, made with best quality ingredients you picked yourself. In my humble opinion, a cost-effective way to start eating clean. 

Can you make Pesto in blender?

Yes. To make Pesto in blender, add all pesto ingredients - basil leaves, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, garlic clove, salt including olive oil to a blender jar. Process at medium speed until basil leaves are pureed, then increase speed and run for 1 minute until pesto comes together, is smooth and moistened in olive oil. (Add more olive oil, 1 tbsp at a time if needed)

BAsil Pesto with Pine Nuts Basil and Parmesan

Can you Make-Ahead Pesto?

Yes, I always make pesto ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to use. It is the best way to use fresh basil leaves before they perish/darken. You can even freeze it (read on to learn more about freezing pesto)

Olive Oil work as natural preservative and prevents darkening of prepared pesto. Before refrigeration, always make sure to do following:

  1. Store Basil Pesto in a container with airtight lid.
  2. Before placing the lid on container, add 1-2 tbsp of olive oil on top to act as preservation layer.

Can you freeze Basil Pesto?

Yes, absolutely! You can freeze basil pesto. This is my favorite way to preserve fresh made basil pesto and use it later. Especially when I making Basil Pesto Sauce for Pesto Pasta. I freeze basil pesto in ice-cube tray which makes small ice-cube size frozen pesto cubes. Once frozen, you can transfer frozen basil cubes into a seal-able food-safe plastic bag. Store in freezer. When needed, take few cubes and use straight from frozen to pan. Add rest of recipe ingredients and flavor will be bright and fresh just like fresh made pesto.

To summarize, follow these steps to freeze Basil Pesto:

  1. Line an ice tray with cling wrap loosely. 
  2. Spoon pesto into the cubes.
  3. Keep in freezer until pesto is frozen completely into cubes.
  4. Once frozen, remove from tray, put into a seal-able food-safe plastic bag. Keep frozen until ready to use.

Notes: For best results, make basil pesto 10-20 minutes before serving. This time allows flavors to marry well and olive oil absorbs good sharp basil taste.

The best Basil Pesto ever

Recipes using Basil Pesto:

Now you have made Basil Pesto. There are so many interesting ways of cooking with Pesto! Try these recipes to enjoy pesto one recipe at a time:

  1. Basil Pesto Pasta Sauce
  2. Pesto Dressing for salad
  3. Basil Pesto Chicken
  4. Pesto Oil to drizzle on soups.
  5. Basil Pesto Spread for sandwiches
  6. Basil Pesto Bread
  7. Drizzle over pizza for a Basil Pesto Pizza Pie

Diet and Pesto:

Oh, I did not forget my friends with allergies. Here are the substitutes for no nuts or no cheese or a low-fat pesto. 

  1. Pesto No Nuts: To make pesto without nuts. Skip nuts or replace nuts with nutritional yeast. 
  2. Pesto No Cheese: To make pesto without cheese. Replace cheese with vegan parmesan cheese or cashew nuts. 
  3. Low Fat Pesto: Reduce the amount of cheese and oil in pesto to half. Use as soon as possible to avoid discoloration.

Coconut Milk Basil Pesto:

You can also make a complete dairy-free version of Basil Pesto with coconut milk. The flavor of pesto made with coconut milk will have coconut flavor instead of parmesan. But it works as great substitute for anyone watching diet or prefer a vegan basil pesto.

To make basil pesto with coconut milk, you will need Basil leaves, Pine Nuts, Garlic, Olive Oil, and full fat Coconut Milk or Cream of Coconut. Use same ingredient quantities as recommend in the recipe card for Basil Pesto below. Replace the parmesan cheese with 1/4 cup coconut milk or 2 tbsp coconut cream.

You can also try my Vegan Pesto recipe with Arugula which I make without cheese, no coconut milk. Replace arugula with Basil Pesto as per preference.

Now, that's what I like about homemade. You can adapt it to your needs anytime. What do you say?!

Friends, whenever you are wondering what to make with fresh basil?! I recommend, make a batch of Basil Pesto. Homemade pesto is easy to make, needs only few ingredients, and is also economical. Above all, pesto stays good in refrigerator for a week. It can also be frozen for later use. Basil Pesto is a culinary masterpiece ingredient that can make any meal pop! Top it on baked chicken, add to pasta sauce, or drizzle on pizza. Really options are endless!!

Happy Cooking!

Love Basil? Few delicious basil recipes from my kitchen!

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Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto
Total Time Prep Time Cook Time Difficulty Easy Yields 1/2 Cup Basil Pesto Serves 4 Notes Recipe doubles easily. Nutrition 200 calories per serving

Ingredients

  • 2 Oz Basil  (fresh basil leaves)
  • 35 Grams Parmesan Cheese  (coarse chopped. or 1/4 cup if grated.)
  • 1/4 Cup Pine Nuts  
  • 1/4 tsp Black Pepper  
  • 1/4 tsp Salt  
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil  (1-2 tbsp more for storing)
  • 2 Garlic  (small garlic cloves)

Directions

  • Step for Recipe - Basil Pesto
    1. Prepare Pesto Ingredients. Wash and pat dry basil leaves. Chop or grate parmesan cheese. Toast Pine Nuts (optional) - Heat a dry skillet over medium heat. Add pine nuts and toast slightly. It takes just 30 seconds to 1 minute to slightly toast pine nuts. Keep an eye. Don't let'em burn. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  • 2. Make Pesto - Add ingredients for basil pesto - basil leaves, pine nuts, coarse chopped parmesan, garlic, salt, black pepper into food processor jar. Pulse a few times to chop garlic, basil leaves and parmesan. Next slowly add olive oil while pulsing the ingredients until pesto comes together.
  • Step for Recipe - Basil Pesto
    3. Taste and adjust salt as per taste. Transfer to a container with lid. Drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil top before refrigeration. For best flavor, let sit for 30 minutes to overnight.
Savita's Notes:
  1. For best results, after making fresh pesto, refrigerate pesto for 30 minutes to overnight to marry the flavors.
  2. When out of pine nuts. Try Pesto recipe with pistachios, cashews, macdemia nuts or even walnuts.
  3. To make Pesto in blender, add all pesto ingredients - basil leaves, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, garlic clove, salt including olive oil to a blender jar. Process at medium speed until basil leaves are pureed, then increase speed and run for 1 minute until pesto comes together, is smooth and moistened in olive oil. (Add more olive oil, 1 tbsp at a time if needed)
  4. Dairy Free Coconut Milk Basil Pesto: To make basil pesto with coconut milk, you will need Basil leaves, Pine Nuts, Garlic, Olive Oil, and full fat Coconut Milk or Cream of Coconut. Use same ingredient quantities as recommend in the recipe card for Basil Pesto above. Only replace the parmesan cheese with 1/4 cup coconut milk or 2 tbsp coconut cream.
First Published on Oct 30, 2011, Updated on Feb 26, 2020

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6 comment(s)

  1. Take my words, this is best basil pesto ever. love it
  2. Very good. I used Pecans rather than pine nuts just for personal preference. Pesto came out great. Loving it.
  3. this looks delish.
  4. I lve basil and any preparation made with basil. Thanks for basil pesto recipe
  5. i love pesto on pizza. i will try it at home with this recipe.
  6. that was easy. basil pesto looks delicious. Have to try this one.