Fresh Basil Pesto

Every year we plant basil and every year the plants do so well that we can’t use it up fast enough. What to do? Basil pesto, of course! Here is a simple recipe. Note that pesto is always made to taste, based on the ingredients at hand. So adjust the ingredients to your taste. Most pesto recipes call for Parmesan cheese, we often use Romano which has a stronger flavor. Basil pesto recipes often call for pine nuts but you can easily substitute walnuts.

Basil is a powerfully aromatic herb and a little goes a long way. You can mellow the pesto out a bit by subbing half of the basil with fresh baby spinach leaves. The pesto will more easily stay vibrant green and the flavor of the basil will still come through, though just not as strongly.

Fresh Basil Pesto

If you want to freeze the pesto you make, omit the cheese (it doesn’t freeze well). Line an ice cube tray with plastic wrap, and fill each pocket with the pesto. Freeze and then remove from the ice tray and store in a freezer bag. When you want to use, defrost and add in grated Parmesan or Romano.

Updated, from the recipe archive, first posted 2006.

Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 1 cup

Basil pesto darkens when exposed to air, so to store, cover tightly with plastic wrap making sure the plastic is touching the top of the pesto and not allowing the pesto to have contact with air. The pesto will stay greener longer that way.



  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed (can sub half the basil leaves with baby spinach)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan-Reggiano cheese (about 2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (can sub chopped walnuts)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (about 3 teaspoons)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Special equipment needed: A food processor


1 Place the basil leaves and pine nuts into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a several times.

basil-pesto-method-1 basil-pesto-method-2

Add the garlic and Parmesan or Romano cheese and pulse several times more. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula.

basil-pesto-method-3 basil-pesto-method-4

2 While the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady small stream. Adding the olive oil slowly, while the processor is running, will help it emulsify and help keep the olive oil from separating. Occasionally stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor.

basil-pesto-method-5 basil-pesto-method-6

Stir in some salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Toss with pasta for a quick sauce, dollop over baked potatoes, or spread onto crackers or toasted slices of bread.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to the source recipe here on Simply Recipes. Thank you!


How to Freeze Basil - great tips from Kalyn's Kitchen

Basil Pesto

Never miss a recipe!

Subscribe to Simply Recipes free via email:

Showing 4 of 192 Comments

  • Gina

    Hi Elise,
    Will this freeze or can well? We have a whole lot of basil and it sounds like this would be a wonderful way to fix it.

  • carol

    I dont know about canning, but I have been freezing a pesto base for years. I use about 5 cups of leaves, and enough olive oil to make it process well. I freeze this flat in freeser bags. Then when you want it, (in January!), just peel off the bag, break it up into a bowl and defrost, then you can add garlic, oregano, and enough cheese to turn the color pea green. I prefer
    Romano too. Then I add a ladleful of the pasta water just before i serve. Taste before you add salt.

  • Judith in Umbria

    My pesto may be even easier, and I also freeze FPed basil with only oil for winter use– it is usable for more than just pesto that way.
    My part of Italy is not a pesto zone, so I am the only one in my neighborhood who makes it. And they all love it when I do! Last week’s treasure was poached chicken breast, cut into large cubes and tossed with pesto while hot. Then it was chilled and eaten with chunks of ripe ripe tomatoes on the side.

  • Salena

    I made pesto a few weeks ago, and the recipe I used called for toasted pine nuts. I usually just use raw, but I thought I’d give it a try. While I was whizzing them in my food processor, they gave off the most indescribably delectible smell, and my pesto tasted amazing! I highly recommend it, as it only takes a minute to toast them dry in a frying pan.

View More Comments / Leave a Comment