This Homemade Basic Pesto recipe blends 5 fresh ingredients together to create a vibrant, bright, and flavorful sauce. Use it on anything, from pasta, to pizza, to seafood!
Pesto sauce is the best-o sauce!
Drizzling a fresh batch of Homemade Basic Pesto on bruschetta, homemade pizza, pasta, and crostinis at your parties will for sure earn you the title of “best host of the year”. So bright, savory, and herbaceous, pesto can take any snack or meal and elevate it!
The combination of fresh basil, garlic, parmesan, and pine nuts is pure heaven. Throw in some high-quality extra virgin olive oil, and you can’t beat this basic pesto recipe. It’s simple to customize and is a great basic recipe to turn to when you want to add heaps of flavor to simple meals.
What is pesto?
Pesto is an Italian green sauce made from crushed pine nuts, basil, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and hard cheese like parmesan or Pecorino. When blended together, the sauce tastes herby, savory, and vibrant. It’s the best addition when you want to bring flavor and brightness to pizza, pasta, sandwiches, fish, and more.
Ingredients for homemade basil pesto
Most pesto recipes are made with these simple 5-ingredients. The vibrant green sauce packs in big flavor and is easy to customize:
Fresh basil leaves act as the star of the show in this pesto. The best basil to use in pesto are the fresh leaves with a bright green color. You should be able to find fresh basil year-round in grocery stores, but the best stuff will be available at farmer’s markets or in your garden during summer.
Pack the leaves tightly into the measuring cup when measuring! A little basil goes a long way but you don’t want to use less than is recommended.
Instead of throwing the whole clove in the food processor, grate the garlic using a rasp grater (we LOVE Microplane). This will leave you without any big chunks of garlic and distribute the flavors evenly.
Creamy pine nuts are a staple in a basic pesto recipe, giving the sauce structure and a hearty texture. You can always substitute them for walnuts, pistachios, macadamia nuts, or almonds if that’s what you have at home.
Can’t have nuts? No problem! To make a nut-free pesto, swap the pine nuts for sunflower seeds, peas, edamame, or hemp seeds instead.
Obviously, you'll end up with a way different flavor if you choose to swap out the pine nuts for something else, so keep that in mind if you want to change things up!
This gives your pesto a cheesy, salty, and nutty bite. A fresh brick of Parmigiano-Reggiano will give the sauce the best flavor, but you can swap it for Pecorino or a mid-priced parmesan instead.
Extra virgin olive oil
The oil gives the homemade pesto a rich bite and brings everything together. It also keeps the pesto fresh for longer!
The quality of EVOO you use will help change up the flavor of the pesto. Make sure to use something you like or splurge on something new!
How to make basil pesto from scratch
Using a food processor to make this fresh pesto recipe will keep things simple and fast. You can use a blender as well or go the traditional route with a mortar and pestle instead!
Step 1: Place all of the ingredients (except the olive oil, salt, and pepper) into a food processor.
Step 2: Pulse until everything is finely chopped.
Step 3: Slowly stream in the olive oil while the food processor is running on high. Season with salt and pepper, then enjoy!
How to use pesto
The brightness and savory bites from pesto are welcome on almost any meal. Use your fresh basil pesto with any of these suggestions and more:
- As a sauce: Swap traditional tomato sauce on pizza or pasta for pesto instead. You can even add a dollop on top of your eggs in the morning, drizzle it over salads, on bruschetta, or over roasted vegetables for added flavor.
- As a dip: Put some bowls of pesto out at the party or on a cheese plate to enjoy with vegetables, chicken bites, bread, shrimp, or pigs in a blanket.
- As a spread: Spread a little pesto on a crostini with ricotta, spread some on a sandwich or burger, brush it onto grilled chicken or shrimp, or bake into bread!
Easily customize your basic pesto recipe to get it just the way you like:
- Spicy: Add a pinch of red pepper flakes or fresh peppers (like diced jalapenos or a serrano pepper).
- Brightness: Brighten it up with a little lemon zest.
- Savory: Add 1 or 2 extra garlic cloves or roast the garlic before blending the pesto.
- Nut free: Use sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, peas, or edamame instead of pine nuts.
How long does pesto last?
Pesto lasts for 5 days when kept in an airtight container in the fridge. To keep it fresh longer, drizzle a little olive oil on top before sealing with a lid.
To freeze pesto, pour the batch into an ice cube tray and freeze. When the pesto cubes are fully frozen, transfer them to a freezer-safe bag. Just defrost them quickly or toss a cube in some cooked pasta and you’re ready to eat!
🎉 It's time to cook! 🎉
Alright, friend! It's your turn to make this delish recipe for your next get-together.
When you do, please leave a comment below so we can hear what you think!
Homemade Basic Pesto
- 1 cup tightly packed basil leaves
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Place everything except the olive oil, salt and pepper into a food processor.
- Pulse until finely chopped, about 1 minute.
- Slowly stream in the olive oil while the food processor is running on high.
- Remove from food processor, salt, and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use.
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- Recipe makes ½ cup