Fresh Basil Pesto

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Classic, simple basil pesto recipe with fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, Romano or Parmesan cheese, extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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.

Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe

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  • 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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

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

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.

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.

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.

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Links:

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

Basil Pesto

Showing 4 of 249 Comments

  • Bob Johnston

    I own a small pizza joint in Phong Nha, Vietnam. We not only use pesto as a condiment for our garlic ’rounds’ (just a small pizza shell made into garlic bread) but as an accent for chicken pizza. Fresh Basil is cheaper than sand here. I sub peanuts and it works out well, lots of garlic and some fresh lime. We’re in a touristy area – biggest caves in the world – not only are the tourists amazed by the pizza but finding good fresh peaso as an accent.

  • Stacey

    Perfection! I used the spinach and walnut substitutes and a blender. I’ll use this recipe again. Thank you

  • Jane Zappia

    I added about a teaspoon of lemon juice to the pesto and that also keeps it greener

  • Valeria

    My pesto came out very dark- ugly, I had very fresh basil. What happened ?

  • E

    Can I can this? If so, how?

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