Fresh basil pesto is a way of life. I consider myself a pesto aficionado and I’m here to tell you that you should be making your own pesto from scratch. My pesto recipe is really simple and only requires a few basic ingredients. Fresh basil leaves, olive oil, pine nuts, fresh garlic, parmesan cheese (or pecorino romano), salt, and pepper is all you need to make your own pesto that is SO MUCH BETTER than anything you can buy in a jar.
Tips for Making Homemade Basil Pesto
- Pesto is best made in a food processor, however, I’ve been making it in a single-serve smoothie blender for a long time. The key is to pulse the blender so as to not overblend the pesto and turn it into slime. Shake the contents to help mix as needed.
- Pesto should be thick and slightly granular in appearance. If it’s too thick, add more olive oil to help thin it out a bit. Pesto can be adjusted in a bowl by simply stirring in extra olive oil.
- Always use extra virgin olive oil and FRESH ingredients. Do not substitute canola or vegetable oil.
- Do not use dried basil! Always use fresh basil leaves.
- If your pesto is too thin or runny and you’ve run out of fresh basil, you can add some baby spinach. You can also stir in a little cornstarch. This will help to thicken the sauce without adding any flavor. I would merely consider this a last resort but it works in a pinch.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust pesto with additional salt afterward. The salt helps to bring out the flavor and really makes pesto pop.
- Fresh garlic is best, but you can substitute garlic powder.
- Walnuts can be substituted for pine nuts. I prefer pine nuts, but walnuts work in a pinch. You can usually find pine nuts in the baking aisle with the other nuts.
How to Freeze Pesto
Pesto freezes well and stays fresher longer than when kept in the fridge. At a minimum, always tightly cover pesto with plastic wrap to prevent browning. Ensure plastic wrap is touching the surface of the pesto so it’s completely sealed from the environment.
To freeze pesto, place portions in small ziplock baggies and remove as much air from the bag as possible. Pesto can last several months in the freezer. To defrost, let the pesto rest on the counter for 15-20 minutes. Alternatively, you can freeze pesto in ice cube trays for simple small portions that quickly defrost when added to hot dishes.Print
Homemade Basil Pesto Recipe
- Prep Time: 5
- Total Time: 5
- Yield: 1–2 cups 1x
- Category: Side
- Cuisine: Italian
Fresh homemade basil pesto made with basil, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil. Perfect for pasta, pizza, sandwiches, and more.
- 3 loosely packed cups of basil leaves, about 2.5 ounces
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Combine all pesto ingredients except for the olive oil in a food processor or blender. Blend/pulse until mixed and smooth.
- With the motor running, add olive oil in a slow stream until combined. Pesto should not be too soupy or fine. Set aside. Can be made a day in advance and stored in the fridge in a tightly sealed container. Cover with plastic wrap seated directly on top of the surface to prevent browning/air exposure.
If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a standard blender or single-serve blender instead. Just don’t blend the ingredients too aggressively or it will turn into a creamy paste. If using a single-serve blender, combine all ingredients together and pulse until smooth. Shaking the containing in between blends will help to mix the ingredients if they get “stuck.”
- Serving Size: 1 tbsp
- Calories: 97
- Sugar: 0.1g
- Sodium: 44mg
- Fat: 10.5g
- Saturated Fat: 1.9g
- Carbohydrates: 0.5g
- Fiber: 0.2g
- Protein: 1.6g
- Cholesterol: 3mg
Keywords: basil pesto, homemade pesto
We grow basil every year in the summer and always have a huge abundance of it. Can’t wait to try this! Question: Since I have a ton of basil every summer will the pesto hold up to freezing in a large container (not ice cube trays). I assume since you said ice cube trays that it might not hold up i.e. take on a funky texture, etc.
Thanks for visiting Elaine!
The only reason I suggested an ice cube tray was quick and easy accessibility from the freezer. I sometimes use it for pasta dishes and may need to pop out 2 or 3 for a recipe or only 1 for a bread dip. But if you have an amount you usually use, feel free to freeze that amount in freezer safe bags.
This recipe is so much better than the pesto in the grocery store! They are not even in the same category anymore after you try this recipe. Thank you!
Yum! We put basil pesto on gluten-free pizza since I have a son who can’t have tomatoes.
Thanks Missy! Pesto is truly amazing.