Fresh Basil Pesto

VideoFreezer-friendlyBasilPesto

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.

How to make homemade pesto

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.

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)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more to taste

Special equipment:

Method

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

2: Add the garlic and cheese: 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.

3 Stream in the olive oil: 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.

4 Stir in salt and freshly ground black pepper, add more 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

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

428 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Marie A. Valentine

    Love this recipe. A little twist is serve it over pasta with a tablespoon of cream cheese. Delish!!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  2. Rhea

    The first time I made this pesto, I followed the recipe to the letter. It was good, but a little salty for my taste. I would suggest holding off on adding the salt until the very end (and after a quick taste), as the cheese you use may have enough. Made it the second time with no salt added and it was probably the best pesto I’ve ever tasted! Thanks for sharing the recipe!!!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  3. GL

    Wanted to try thus but I don’t have a food processor. I do have a ninja bullet though. Would that work? How will I add the Olive Oil in this case?

    Thanks!

  4. Suzanne

    This question is for you, Elise!
    Hi I’m very excited to make this! But can you possibly post the nutrition information?? I really need to know and be aware of that before I consume your pesto recipe.
    (Like I need to know with all recipes).

    Thank you so much!!!

    Show Replies (1)
  5. Bridget

    I made it exactly as stated, using basil freshly picked from my plant. I used an intense flavoured Parmesan. It was perfect! Absolutely delicious and so much better than store bought.
    Have measured out the required amount for my pasta dish and frozen the left over in snap lock bags.

    xxxxxyyyyy

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