Fresh Basil Pesto

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Showing 4 of 195 Comments

  • Karen

    I made pesto for the first time in and new ninja blender with their recipe but it turned out like a paste not a relish what am I doing wrong

  • Hayley

    I just made this tonight to go with my zuchinni pasta. It turned out fantastic and I’m putting my basil plant to good use :) Thank you for an easy to follow recipe with beautiful photos.

  • Rutika

    Elise, I started following your recipes one by one, starting with this one. I followed it to the last letter and I have to say.. It is the best pesto I’ve tasted – even compared to ones I’ve tasted in restaurants! Very easy to make and great addition to any dish! Thanks for this!

  • Alexa

    Hi Elise, I would like to make a pound and a half of pasta. How much pesto should I make for that much pasta? Is the one cup enough for that amount?

  • Sandy Mak

    I have 3 Basil plants all doing very well, and needed a way to preserve some. I did a search for harvesting and storing basil. I made this right after reading your post. It was absolutely incredible! So fresh tasting! I didn’t have Extra Virgin Olive Oil just regular Olive Oil but it still turned out great. I am usually afraid to try a recipe like this for fear I will mess it up and waste the ingredients. I went back out to the garden for some cherry tomatoes, sliced them in half and spread them with this Pesto. Incredible! Mmmmm.

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