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The only complaint is that it’s too good. Even with the three cloves of garlic, which initially appeared to me quite a strong taste. But it was only initially – afterwords there was no putting it back in the fridge. I devoured it all in one day.
I’m so glad you liked it Janna!
I made it with my own homegrown organic basil. It was simple and delicious. I added a touch of fresh lemon juice and a dab of honey to cut the slight garlic bitter. Scrumptious!
Awesome, easy, very delicious recipe!!
I had an excess of thai basil from my AEROGARDEN and this recipe is the best for fresh THAI basil pesto!Thanks
Hi Dacudee, I’m growing Thai basil but have never thought to make pesto with it. Great idea, thank you!
First time making & it came out great. Easy to follow recipe… Great flavor!
Very helpful. Thank you❣️
I use pistachios instead of pine nuts ! Marinate large prawns for one hour, bar-b-que and so yummy over pasta!
Wonderful recipe! Takes a little more patience, but can also be done in a blender! So yummy and fresh tasting. Thanks :)
I’ve been making this for years and just needed a quick refresher on the proportions. This is a time-honored classic recipe with good reason: the taste is wonderful. Having a food processor really helps; we used to make it with a mortar and pestle, which is why I hadn’t made it in a while!
Great recipe! Simple, perfect spices. I have a Vitamix & just put olive oil, garlic, cheese and pine nuts in first. Gave it a quick blend, then added the basil leaves. Pesto in less than 60 seconds! I did scrape it into a bowl & stirred in the salt & pepper. It had a slightly bitter flavor…probably because I used some very mature basil leaves. So I added a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Perfect. Thank you! I plan to use this recipe all summer!
Without a food processor at our cabin, I use your recipe, but cut the basil w scissors to make what we call “camp pesto” … yummm
delicious!! I just through all the ingredients into a magic bullet though..I don’t have a food processor. Still turned out great!
Tastes great and toasting pine nuts makes it even better!
Our first time. We had store-bought but needed more for our chicken garlic pesto lasagna. Ours was better than store-bought!! We are excited to find a good use for the basil in our garden.
We usually make pesto to accompany our meal. But we use cilantro or mint instead of basil. In India and Nepal these pesto are loved with any veg dish.
So good! Perfect amount of garlic!
I used raw unsalted sunflower seeds in place of pine nuts. Excellent recipe ! Served with grilled chicken fresh garden beans and garlic toast .
Simple, perfect, delicious. I added a tad bit more of everything for bigger batch. Had it with zoodles. Delicious! I added a touch of lemon juice to keep fresh in the fridge.
Loved it! Couldn’t have been easier!
Soooo delicious! I have literally made it 10 times in 3 weeks! We eat it on zucchini noodles, grilled chicken and on steamed veggies!
Great recipe! You can not only substitute garbanzo beans for pine nuts or walnuts but either cashew or almond butter are great subs
Excellent, easy to make and flavorful recipe! I am having a bumper crop basil season in my windowsill garden (I live in NYC). Making my third batch of pesto today.
Excellent recipe! I froze it in ice cube trays, so I can just pull out a cube or two for small dishes. Once frozen I transfer the cubes to a ziplock or large tupperware.
Excellent! I doubled the batch and bought several 8 oz. containers so I could freeze and only filled about 1 and a half. Easy recipe and wonderful taste! I will probably quadruple it tomorrow because I have a LOT of basil.
Could this be made with chickpeas instead of pine nuts. It is delicious but I’m not supposed to have nuts of any kind chickpeas are softer in mashup easier please let me know
We just made it with sunflower seeds and it’s great – I think sunflower seeds are ok for people with nut allergies. I think canned chickpeas might work, especially if you toast them first and are careful not to over-process them. Maybe add them later in the recipe, just before the oil.
Hi, Evelyn! Emma here, managing editor. I’ve never tried making a pesto with chickpeas, but it’s an intriguing idea! I think the pesto would end up much creamier, closer to the consistency of a dip instead of a sauce, though you could try thinking that out with water or olive oil. Give it a try and let us know how it works!
This recipe is awesome
I can’t wait to make this.Thank you!
I toasted the pine nuts with these recipe- delish !
This sounds delicious and my basil plant has gone wild! Can I jar this recipe and keep in my cellar?
Hi, Samantha! Emma here, managing editor. I would recommend storing your pesto in the fridge for longest shelf life. In your cellar, it will likely spoil quite quickly, even if it’s cool. Hope you enjoy the pesto!
I always freeze mine, i put a thin layer of olive oil on to to prevent browning and pop it right it! it lasts for months!
I’ve made this recipe several times but never made any comments. This pesto has provided so many delicious dinners for may family. Just tossing some in with pasta, mixing with mayo and making a quick chicken salad, and then my husband just eats it by the spoonful. Thank you for this staple summer recipe for so many meals.
I’m so glad you like it Kristin, and that you’ve found so many uses for it! I love the idea of mixing with mayo and cooked chicken for a quick pesto chicken salad. Thank you!
Would be nice to see a nut-free version.
You can make anything nut free. Just do not use nuts.
Basic, simple and delicious on pasta. My go-to for pesto.
Delicious and simple!
Used the basil from my garden!! I added the juice of 1/2 a lemon and walnuts. I am in heaven! My mother used to make this when I was a kid with dried basil. This is so much better (still loved yours, Mom)!!
Great! Thank you for sharing
Made this for dinner tonight. It was easy and delicious! Used homegrown basil.
Very good recipe ,easy to make in just minutes! I used my home grown basil Organic, and delicious ! Will always use this recipe.
I followed the recipe exactly as written. It is perfect!!!! I will never use store bought basil pesto again. This is the best I have ever had.
Love your pesto….. the best!
My basil was going nuts in the yard so I looked this recipe up and I am so glad I did! It took no time and is absolutely amazing! I’m eating keto and this is just what I needed to freshen things up.
Excellent!! Does anyone know how many calories this recipe is?
Excellent recipe, easy. I blanched the basil in hot water, then transferred to very cold to retain the lighter green color. Squeezed out all of the extra water. I used more oil than called for…substituting Alvocado oil (very mild taste) for about 1/2 of the oil. Went light on the added salt, because of the salt in the Parmesan cheese already.
I’ve used avocado oil exclusively with this recipe as well; kudos.
Perfect! Thank you!
Quick, easy and delicious…is my go to recipe for pesto.
Very easy. Fresh ingredients. Turned out great. Salt and pepper to taste.
This was the best pesto I have ever made! Absolutely perfect. I’ve been looking for excuses to keep eating it!
I followed this recipe to a T. and it was awful, it had a bitter after taste. I’ve added more basil leaves and cheese, hoping it would alter the bitter after taste. I think it was the raw garlic. Had to throw away, and find another pesto recipe!!
Sounds like bad/rancid pine nuts to me.
Can be the basil, too. The larger the basil leaves, the more bitter the taste. Try harvesting the basil when the leaves are smaller.
Loved it, so useful in freezer for quick pasta meal. Am now making a second batch, thanks.
I think you meant to say 1/4 cup of cheese. That’s 2 oz
I wish you included the part where people have to blanch the leaves before tossing them into a food processor otherwise the pesto turns brown :(
I never blanch( too lazy) just top jar with olive oil and basil will stay green.
This looks like a good recipe. Can’t wait to try it! I have grown my own basil. One year and there after I grew three different kind of basils. Regular basil, Thai basil, and purple Thai basil. The Thai basils are so good and intense.
Great I got to use my basil plant
Excellent! Even my picky son ate it
Was looking for recipes to make after growing my own basil. Turned out really good!
I’ve made this recipe in the past, last week and now a double batch to use up all the basil we grew. It’s great except because I’m lazy and don’t want to grate the cheese so I throw it and whole garlic cloves into the food processor first untill finely chopped then the rest. I’ve also started using walnuts because they are cheaper than pinenuts plus I like their health benefits.
Great proportions. I actually always freeze my pesto with the cheese in it and it is perfect from the freezer.
Absolutely the best pesto recipe that I’ve had. Made 3 batches and stored it in the fridge; it was still great after 6 weeks!
This is for how many grams of pasta? Thank you!
Hi, Julie Ann! Emma here, managing editor. It depends on how sauced you like your pasta, but as a general guide, I’d say this makes enough for about a pound (454 g) of pasta. Enjoy!
Easy to follow recipe with great results, thanks! I toasted the pine nuts and also lightly pan fried the crushed garlic in a little olive oil to remove some of the sting to make it more child friendly straight away.
Great recipe, I subbed in coriander and put in extra garlic. My whole family loves it and it tastes so very fresh.
Great recipe, I made it vegan by adding some cashews (for texture) and nutritional yeast to substitute for the cheese
What are your thoughts on toasting the pine nuts?
Hi, Champakbhai! Emma here, managing editor for Simply Recipes. I sometimes toast my pine nuts — it gives the pesto a little more depth of flavor. If you want to do it, toast the pine nuts in a dry (unoiled) skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, until you see the pine nuts start to show some browned spots. Transfer immediately to a plate or bowl to cool. Enjoy!
I use sunflower seeds because they are much cheaper but have approximately the same oil content. I’ve just eaten half a loaf of homemade French bread with fresh pesto – divine!
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.
Perfection! I used the spinach and walnut substitutes and a blender. I’ll use this recipe again. Thank you
I added about a teaspoon of lemon juice to the pesto and that also keeps it greener
My pesto came out very dark- ugly, I had very fresh basil. What happened ?
Hi Valeria, I don’t know what happened. Next time you might want to add some fresh parsley to the basil when you make the pesto. That can help keep pesto more vibrant green.
Blanch the basil first. It will stay green for weeks. You can also blanch and freeze the leaves for use later.
the blades in your food processor warm up very quickly due to its rotation speedand that heat turns the basil or any other green herb to dark green.that heat can also force out the oils in nuts and make the olive oil taste bitter.
don’t mix it too long, but pulse it, turn on the food processor/blenderfor a couple of seconds and then turn it off for a couple of seconds.that way, the blades can’t build up heat. or you can make basil pestothe old-school way with a mortar and pestle.
Can I can this? If so, how?
Hello E, no, canning requires cooking, and this pesto is made with fresh raw basil. You can, however, freeze pesto. Just line an ice tray with plastic wrap, place the basil pesto in the wells of the ice tray, freeze, remove from the ice tray, and place in a plastic freezer bag and keep frozen.
Been making pesto for years by eyeballing it. This recipe is pretty dead on to my eyeballing. My favourite use is on a sandwich. Think clubhouse but sub pesto for mayo
How do you freeze it? I know I read it somewhere but can’t find it.
My favorite way to freeze pesto is to pack it into an ice cube tray, freeze until solid, then pop out the cubes and store them in a freezer bag or container. When you want pesto, just thaw a few cubes, or throw them right into a soup or skillet!
Perfect recipe! I also have lightly browned the pine nuts in a saute pan before adding to the blender to make them a little more crunchy. ☺️
These proportions are absolutely perfect. I found I didn’t need to add any salt at the end, the parmesan provided enough salty flavor. So delicious! Thank you.
I’m so glad you liked it Sarah!
Please DO NOT blanch the basil as someone recommended. At least not without roughly doubling your amount of basil. I just did this and my lovely, fresh, vibrant 2 cups-worth of basil from my plant shrank to a much smaller amount. I didn’t alter the other ingredients’ amounts and now I have something much less green, much more pine nutty and cheesy, and altogether un-pesto-like. I am so angry at myself for blindly following this advice. All the lovely, potent fresh basil fragrance is gone from my pesto, only a hint remains on my hands from picking the leaves earlier today. Learn from my mistake: don’t overthink things and stick to the recipe as posted. I’m now off to the store to buy some more basil to see if this “pesto” can be salvaged.
the best way is to redo everything if you mess up. though, basil is really easy to grow, i recommend growing some instead of buying it. saves a lot of money.
Depends on the climate you live in.
For a brighter pesto that stays green longer, blanch the basil for a few seconds. And if you can spare a few extra minutes, use a mortar and pestle for the best results.
Hey, Elise. My girlfriend and I are going camping next weekend. Will it stay fresh if we prepare it in the morning and serve for dinner? And what other cheese can I use? Thanks in advance!
Hi Rev, it should be fine if you make it in the morning, carry it around with you, and serve it for dinner. As for the cheeses? I prefer Romano or Parmesan. Those are the classic cheeses for pesto. You can also just leave the cheese out if you want.
For pasta, how many will this serve?
Hi MJW, it completely depends on how pesto-y you want your pasta and how much pasta per serving. The recipe makes about a cup of pesto. Look at these recipes for some guidelines: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/pesto_pasta_with_spinach_and_avocado/, http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/pesto_pasta_salad/, http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/shrimp_and_artichoke_pasta/
Besides from Romano or Parmesan-Reggiano cheese, can I substitute Sharp Cheddar for this pesto?
Hi Gin, no, not really.
No. Please don’t substitute cheddar cheese for romano or parm . they’re different cheeses and the outcome would be mushy.
Love this recipe, so easy and painless. I have actually just added my cheese when making and frozen my pesto in ice cube trays. Do make sure your plastic wrap is touching the pesto of each cube and put it in the freezer. When they’re frozen I pop them out into a freezer bag and use one cube per serving. Works great for pasta, I add to my veggies or when I make a soup. So handy to have the fresh taste of basil. I make a bunch at the end of the season and used even into winter.
Hello. How much does 2 cups of basil weight in grams? My pesto never turns out right, so maybe I’m not packing the cup enough/too much? Weight would solve that! Thanks much for the recipes!
about 28g. i used mostly leaves and some stalks and it worked fine.
My first attempt with home grown basil.Followed recipe as given; made the job easy and the result was first class.Thanks for foolproof guidance!
I just made this, but I am allergic to most nuts except almonds so I used raw almonds….I will tell everyone how it came out. I thought since they have a nutty taste, it would be a great replacement. It smells delightful…about to have dinner. :-)
Ashley, I make pesto without nuts at all. It’s not as rich and “nutty”, but I think the basil and garlic are the real stars of pesto. Recipe here:https://israelisalad.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/poor-mans-pesto/
I use almonds all of the time, as pine nuts tend to be pretty expensive. I love the nutty, rich taste. Cashews will give a creamier, buttery flavor…very nice!
I often use sunflower seeds – just be aware that the pesto may be on the gray side, but the flavor is great.
Loved this recipie! Easy, friendly and yummy! I used walnuts, will make it again :D
First time pesto maker – so easy & came out great! But for our family with 3 kids, I would reduce garlic to just one teaspoon. They said, “Yummy…but kind of spicy!” It was the spike of the fresh garlic they were tasting! Also: for just one pot of pasta, I could see halving the recipe. We have a ton leftover! But it’s delicious. :)
Use it as spread
How long can the pesto last in the fridge if I don’t want to freeze it?
Hi Yvonne, about a week or so.
Try toasting the nuts first for a richer flavor.
I made it with the half spinach half basil, walnuts, and asiago cheese…it was scrumptious!
Turned out great with the romano cheese. I think it’s a good recipe.
This recipe was too garlicky for my taste and I like garlic. Will try one clove next time and will try toasted pine nuts next time too.
Hi Chase, you can also roast the garlic first, if you want a different taste. I’m a little sensitive to raw garlic myself, so I do that sometimes.
When I am looking for recipes I alway Google simply recipes for a reliablbly good result. Using Romano cheese in this pesto recipe confirms once again your recipes are the best. Thank you!
I’m wanting to try using roasted garlic rather then raw, good idea?
Sure, roasted garlic will work!
how bout garlic powder ?
I lost my recipe but this seems, as I remember, to be very close. Made it tonight, delicious! Try it on rice, mixed with a little butter on corn on the cob, spread on pizza crust before the sauce, even mixed with Italian dressing over fresh tomatoes and red onion for a salad. I make my pesto with a little cilantro for something different.
My first-time ever home-made pesto. What a difference between the store-bought and this recipe. Love, love, love it! Thanks for sharing!
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
Hi Karen, sounds like perhaps it got over-blended. Just a few quick pulses should do the trick.
Karen, add more olive oil a bit at a time.
I also made this pesto in my ninja. I used less olive oil and then I used my cookie scoop to freeze 1 Tablespoon portions. Then when I take out of the freezer I add a bit more oil at that time to reconstitute. So good in the middle of January!
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.
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!
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?
Hi Alexa, I think one cup is more than enough. It depends on how pesto-y you like your pesto pasta!
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.
Will Mozrella work instead of Parmesn?
No, not really.
If you make too much and don’t want to freeze, you can put into the ‘fridge in a container and add extra oil to cover the sauce. The oil will keep air away so that it won’t spoil. I do this with tomato paste all the time.
can we use mint instead of spinach in the substituting process??? or can we follow the same recipe to make mint pesto???
Hi Shrima, use half mint and half parsley, otherwise it will be to overwhelmingly minty. The mint parsley balance works well. While you’re at it, check out our mint chimichurri recipe: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/mint_chimichurri/
guess I am doing it all wrong when the store puts cheese on sale I will buy several pounds freeze it and use it as needed been doing that for years never heard anyone say do not freeze cheese. why not?…bill
Made this pesto for the first time today and ACTUALLY stuck to the recipe! That’s a first for me. I read the comments, ratings and reviews first, then proceeded to blend with my Ninja what-ja-magig and came out with a perfect relish. I used the walnuts, (no pine nuts on hand), and used hard to find, Star ORGANIC, olive oil. Star Organic, just do a taste test. It will blow your mind!
Yummmm!! I follow this recipe, subbing the pine nuts for roasted cashews. LOVE fresh basil pesto so much, just spread on a cracker by itself. I will get around to adding it to pasta one day, but at the moment it just doesn’t last that long! :-)
I have a fool proof method for freezing pesto so it retains its green color and it stores conveniently.After preparing the pesto of your choice place about a quarter of a cup or less in a quart size zip lock freezer bag. Be sure to keep the bag on a flat surface and starting at the bottom if the Baggie, squeeze out all the air as you carefully spread the sauce over the entire surface of the bag excluding the last inch at the top.Zip the bag shut making sure there is no air in the bag. If there is air, reopen the bag and start again at the bottom of the bag smoothing the sauce and squeezing out the air. Then place the bags on a shelf in your freezer (use a small pan if you need it for a flat surface) until pesto is frozen. The flat baggies store wonderfully in the freezer taking up a minimal amount of space and you can store other frozen foods on top of the bags.The fact that all air is removed keeps the pesto bright green and increases the freezer life.I use this method of freezing for my different pastes too, like Thai chile paste and or chiles for taco sauce and salsa. It works better than ice cubes because there is little contact with air and you can break off pieces as large or as small as you wish and reseal the ziplock bag.
I freeze my hamburger that same way. I use a rolling pin to flatten it and it defrosts in no time
I’ve found a good way to take the air out of a zip lock baggie is to insert a straw about an inch into the baggie and zip it up and pinch with your fingers until the straw is tight and no air can escape from around it. Then suck (gently) on the straw until the all air is out of the baggie, and you can pull the straw out with your teeth as your pinching/zipping where the straw was. Creates a great vacuum. Of course, you don’t want to do it with everything, and you want to be really careful about sucking something down your windpipe. But it works great if you a responsible adult.
OMG this is the BEST recipe! Thank you.
yummmyyyy is the word to describe this recipe. thanks for sharing made. i love pesto and this is first time I prepared the pesto at home and it turned out brilliant :)
I have found that if you put lemon juice and omit the salt you have less browning and the lemon juice makes up for the salt.
This recipe turned out very well for me – I was searching for a recipe with no more than 2 cups of basil, as our crop this year was minimal. I did not toast the pine nuts this time, although sometimes I do. I have been in the habit of freezing the pesto with the cheese included (I use grana padano, the next best thing to Parmesan). I have never had a problem. When I thaw the pesto, I generally use it immediately, so have not had the problem of it turning black. After having prepared this recipe twice, I can safely say that I will use it again next year!
I would not process the pine nuts. I would hand mix them in at the end with the cheese.
I read about half the comments, and am going to try many of the variations that I read. Elise, the basic recipe is great. I didn’t notice anyone else above having tried sunflower seeds in place of the pine nuts. I do that all the time and love the pesto we make.
Great idea on the sunflower seeds Carl, thank you!
Enjoyed reading through all the comments and here’s something I would like to offer…. Have you ever tried adding garlic scapes and dill as variations to your pesto recipe? The flavor combination of these added ingedients are fabulous!
Great idea Cheri, thanks!
Can this be made using a blender instead of a food processor?
Hi Lori, good question. I think it depends on your blender. If you have something like a Vitamix or Blendtec it will probably work. A regular blender though? Maybe, maybe not.
My regular blender did not work well at all. Pulverized the ingredients too much and the flavor was just not right. Also seemed to bruise the leaves too much and the oxidation was occurring quickly. Use the food processor for best results.
I’ve been making my pesto with walnuts ever since I read an article about how pine nuts from China can give you an allergic reaction that makes your mouth tingle and kills your taste buds for a few weeks. I had noticed a distinct turpentine scent from some I got from the grocery store, so I tossed them. They say that the inexpensive pine nuts you can find so easily now are the culprits, so I’ve gone over to the walnut camp!
I’ve also discovered that you can toast a few cloves of garlic in a dry pan – the same one you use for toasting whatever nuts you choose – and it really mellows them out. If you’re not wild about that pungent taste of raw garlic, this is a good trick – skins still on, just let them brown a little, take them out, cool and peel them before tossing into the blender.
I agree the source of the pine nuts is very important. The “turpentine” flavor you referred to is related to the fact that it turpintine made from the resin of pine trees. Makes sense.
My basil did really well this year too. I have Thai basil as well. Do you think I can mix the two types of basil to make pesto? Or maybe make two different kinds of pesto? I do mix the two in other dishes.
I have been making this almost every week for years now as both my kids are so addicted to pesto and I have been making the very same way you have mentioned. But recently I have started adding a few pieces of sun dried tomatoes along with the other ingredients and it tastes very good!
Hi Elise,Reading this, I have one question (which has nothing to do with cooking per se) but you say that your basil does very well every year! What is your secret? I have basil every year too, but it never does very well, and it’s like caring for a terminal patient; never knowing when the plants may give their last breath, watching everyday with prayers.I live in France, outside of Paris, so it is true that is not hot nor warm often. Do you have any tips?
Hi Maria,Basil loves warm weather. In fact, you have to plant it later than tomatoes. Here in Sacramento, California, we plant tomatoes around April 15th. I usually wait until May to plant basil. Basil likes growing near tomatoes, so I plant them in the same bed. Something you might want to check is overwatering. That’s often the culprit with plants that aren’t doing as well as you would expect. My garden bed with basil, tomatoes, and chile peppers gets watered twice a week. Also, as soon as the cooler weather hits, basil will die. It’s truly a summer plant.
Hello and thank you for the answer,Yes, unfortunately, it just isn’t warm enough for basil here. Tomatoes don’t do well here, in fact, I’ve just stopped trying to be honest. It’s much too humid and much too cool for plants like that. Thank you!
Grow indoors. Here (NZ) we can get small growing basil in supermarkets which I’m pretty sure has been grown via hydroponics. Make sure you repot into something that has a water reservoir and keep it moist and fed. Pinch out the tips and flowers. Mine has lasted so long that I dont know when I got it. 6 to 9 months I think.
I was grilling shrimp the other day and decided to use pesto instead of just oil and garlic. It was fabulous. I also stirred it into the rice I served. I put it in salad dressing, potato salad, garlic toast, grilled chicken. I’m crazy about it. It makes everything taste so much better.
I’ve used a recipe for decades that calls for butter as well as olive oil, and I really prefer its flavor to others. Turns out, there’s a history of using butter in Liguria, where pesto originated. (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1998/08/pesto-by-hand/305167/)
I have made and froze pesto for many years. I always add the cheese prior to freezing and feel the taste does not suffer. Part of my logic for this is that the beauty of frozen pesto is that you can take it out of the freezer and defrost in a pretty short amount of time for a quick dinner. But this wouldn’t work if I needed to add parmesan or asiago but didn’t have it on hand. If I put the cheese in prior to freezing it is truly all ready to go (and delicious). Similar to other commenters, I believe that the pine nuts are more flavorful if toasted.
Hi, I just picked regular and lemon basil from my garden, can this be used for pesto?
Hi Donna, practically any herb-y green can be used for pesto—basil, cilantro, arugula, even asparagus. If you like the taste of it, make pesto with it!
I lightly toast the garlic cloves I use in pesto as well as toasting the pignola nuts. I have also mixed marcona almonds and pignola nuts. I have seen it suggested that you add a little of the water you cook your pasta in (like 1/4 cup) to your pesto prior to tossing it on your pasta to spread it out a little and distribute the flavor more evenly. You could add a tablespoon at a time to avoid getting your dish too runny. Also, if you don’t have a blender or food processor, the actual traditional pasta was made by grinding everything using a mortar and pestle. Takes about 15 minutes. Nice recipe!
I am going to make some lemon mint pesto and see how that works.
Yum! I made this last night in bulk with my end-of-season basil. The kids loved it!
Just made this to use on pizza. YUM. Thanks Elise!
Question could I use coconut oil instead of olive oil or would it taste weird?
I’m guessing it would taste really weird. But if you make it, let us know how it turns out for you. ~Elise
Can I use almonds instead of Pine Nuts/Walnuts? Definitely peanuts is out of the question but those nuts are not very common here in our country and it’s very hard to find and very expensive. The almond is much readily available here (although a bit expensive)
You can try using almonds. Let us know how it turns out for you! ~Elise
If you want a really outstanding pesto, substitute macadamia nuts for the pine nuts and macadamia oil for the olive oil. This is what we do in Hawaii.
On freezing pesto — freeze a batch with cheese and one without, and you will never freeze it with cheese again. The taste of the cheese really seems to degrade in the freezer. Add it after you defrost it!
If you freeze it without cheese, it will keep for a very long time (more than a year). I also tend to use gobs of olive oil — I leave a layer floating on top. Mine seems to stay nice and green.
Do you know why it is traditional to include nuts in basil pesto. I am very curious why this became a part of the recipe.Marguerite
No idea. You can easily make pesto without nuts. I think it tastes better with them. ~Elise
I am from jordan , we have basil here also , but we r using it little in our food , i tried to make pesto which my children likes too much ( we brought from rome ) , the recipe is excellent , i used 1/2 pine seeds and 1/2 wallnuts …. Thank u ….
Basil is awesome in a stew, lamb or beef. Rolled up and thin sliced, good in mixed in the filling in a stuffed baked zuchini’s rice. Similarly sliced, basil good over a light salad of onion/cucumber/tomato.
for those who doesn’t have a food processor, i had used a blender, but instead of the blender jar, i used a mason jar. the mason jar screwed onto the screw thingy that held the blades for the blender jar, and worked very well. then i got my first food processor, a garbage pick with half a blade. after a good scrubbing it worked great with a little extra chopping. i now have a top of the line one with all the attachments!!! good luck all!!
Yes, we’ve written about how to use a mason jar with a blender. So convenient! ~Elise
I used my harvested basil for this recipe. Oh my goodness it is delicious! Though, I do suggest around 1/2 tsp of salt & 1/4 tsp of fresh ground pepper. With such a vague suggestion of written for the recipe new cooks will be discouraged according to under or over use of salt & pepper.
I had tried this recipe last month and found the pesto (using walnuts) a bit bitter. I toasted the walnuts this time and it is delicious. Next time I will try it with almonds. I also used a tad bit less oil than it calls for.
I rescued my end-of-season Basil with this recipe too. It was very good.
I only had Walnuts on hand, so I used the Walnuts. I think I prefer their flavor over pine nuts anyway (BTW avoid Chinese Pine Nuts). I might try Black Walnuts sometime too.
I love Olive Oil, but I think this is a little too much, except for perhaps, dipping. In my second batch I used less Olive Oil. That second batch was a little stiff, but I loosened it with a little of the pasta water. I sauced the tortellini in the pan (best way to sauce pasta).
I used a mortar and pestle, but I think hand chopping will be even better, and I will try that next time.
Hand chopping really allows you to taste each of the individual flavors, a hallmark of delicious dishes I think.
I finely chop my basil and blend with enough oil to make a heavy paste. Then I put it in a zip lock bag, removing all the air. Flatten the bag as much as possible and freeze flat. Then when you need basil, just break off a piece as large as needed for recipe. Keeps in freezer for a year, and quantity is determined by how much yu break off, not as in an ice cube tray.Works great!!!
Oh my goodness! I just made this pesto, literally 5 minutes ago with some basil from our garden. This could quite possibly be the most delicious thing I’ve ever made! I used almonds because they were the only nuts I had on hand. Good enough to eat with a spoon…I can’t wait for the pasta pot to start boiling. YUM! Thank you!!!
has anyone made pesto with boxwood basil. if so, do you have to trim off every little leaf of can you chop including some stem. does it do the same job in the pesto?
My wife and I just made our first batch of Thai basil, basil, oregano, and chive pesto using similar recipes as those above. We took a Bolillo bun, slapped a few beer brats off the grill into the buns, slathered our pesto generously over the beer brats filling the bun…. And… WOW! A very delightful and flavorful tastebud pleaser was born! Hope you try one as well…… They are awesome!
Love your site. I’ve also tried the Pesto sauce using Macadamian nuts…it gives it a very light taste….give it a try…Let us know what you think.Liz
I love pesto! I usually make a traditional pesto, although in the last few years I have subbed walnuts due to an awful case of pine-mouth coupled with the rising cost of pignolias– it just doesn’t seem worth it on either end.
I have also used sunflower seeds & pepitas (green pumpkin seeds) in place of pigniolas– both worked well, although the sunflower seeds muddle the brilliant green pesto color. Nonetheless, both are good nut-free options.
For a different twist- a recipe I got out of the New Thai Cuisine cookbook– roughly, as from memory: Equal part mixed herbs (basil, mint & cilantro) combined with an equal part spinach, a few garlic cloves, fresh ginger, a serrano chile or similar, and a quarter to half part blanched or toasted almonds. Process to a paste, using canola, rapeseed or other high-heat oil. To use it: heat a can of coconut milk on stove till boiling, add a # of prawns (shell-on or shell off), simmer till prawns turn pink, cu heat, & stir in 1/2 cup Thai pesto + 1-2 tsp fish sauce. Serve with lime wedges over rice. I call it Thaitailian and it is just delicious. It also freezes exceptionally well.. making it a great Pantry One-Hit Wonder.(If you consider frozen shrimp/prawns a pantry staple).
I also love my pesto slathered on a pizza or as a dollop in soup.
Love the sound of it, thanks for the suggestion! ~Elise
Can you use fruit fresh or crushed vitamin C tablets to avoid browning?
Interesting idea, I haven’t tried it. If you do, please let us know if it works. ~Elise
Hi can we make pesto with frozen basil. if yes how? thnx
Good question, no idea. If anyone reading this has made pesto with frozen basil, please chime in. ~Elise
I sometime subtitute Cilantro for the basil and pecans for the pine nuts/walnuts. I call this combination Texas Pesto.
Do I need to toast the pine nuts before putting it in the blender with basil ?
OH MY GAWD, this was really good. I did take two recommendations from previous commentors. I added balsamic vinegar to the arugula (actually my store had NO arugula so I used watercress. The peppery nature of watercress was excellent). I also used my GF sandwich machine to press the sandwiches. MMMMM.I made my own pesto. I watch my fat so when I make pesto, I substitute water for some of the oil. The way I do it is, make the pesto in the blender For this recipe I used the following and still had more pesto let over:•1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese 2 Tblspns extra virgin olive oil1/6 cup pine nuts or walnuts (I mixed both)3 medium sized garlic cloves, mincedSalt and freshly ground black pepper to tasteBLEND, then add water (I add water and less oil, I added water a little at a time so as not to be overly watery)Let it sit the the fridge and it becomes thick. MMMMMM and less fat.
This may sound crazy, but could you substitute toasted sunflower seeds for the nuts? May give a little nutty flavor and crunch? (severe tree nut allergy and peanuts are also not allowed)
It’s worth a try. ~Elise
This is the first time I have followed a recipe and had a GREAT result! Thank you sooo much!
Made your pesto recipe with my new food processor, turned out great, thanks alot!
I discovered pesto only recently and am totally addicted to the taste. Buying it is expensive, and I appreciate the info provided in this publication on how to make my own, complete with freeaing instructions.I like it best on German Bauern Brot with butter and pesto. A delicious pesto sandwich.
My wife has been making a shrimp and pesto pasta dish for me on special occasions. She has always used the “store bought” pesto sauce. Today, she had to go in to work so I thought I would surprize her with the same dish but we already had all the ingredients right here in our kitchen. What I didn’t have was a recipe. I found yours online and made it exactly as you wrote it and it turned out even better than what we are use to. Thanks a million!
not sure how i got hooked on to the taste of persto, but voila, i did and living in India, i just couldnt find fresh pesto anywhere. Even if i did, by chance, it was oh so expensive.
Thanks a ton for this receipe, now i make my own pesto without chesse and my friends love the way it blends well with farfelli.
thanks a ton once again :) love you for this receipe :)
PS: for those who are calorie-concious, you could try using low-fat processed cheese. Flavor is slightly dull but the lemon juice and the pepper with salt brings it all out. Try roasted and salted almonds when using low fat cheese.
After reading all of the comments, I thought I had the mystery of the brown pesto solved. Made the pesto, added a tsp of fresh lemon juice, stored with plastic wrap touching the top. Nice bright green pesto. Added to hot cooked pasta, called DH to dinner. Minutes later, brown pesto pasta! Tasted good, looked BAD. Should I only use pesto on cold or room temp pasta?
The things that will make green vegetables (or herbs like basil) turn brown are oxidation, heat, and acid. When you add an acid like lemon juice to the basil and then heat it by mixing it in with hot pasta, your pesto may turn brown. Even without the lemon juice it may turn brown, but as I recall the acid along with the “cooked” green will turn the green brown. The best way to store the pesto without browning is to cover it with a layer of olive oil and/or plastic wrap so that the oxygen from the air never touches the basil. ~Elise
Can this be made without any nuts? I need to find a pesto recipe that does not require nuts.
Just leave out the nuts. ~Elise
I added peanuts instead and the turn out was fabulous, I find walnuts a bit bitter, you can all try with peanuts I def recommend it.Cyprus with love
There were a few questions and comments about pesto darkening or turning black. This is oxidation occuring, similar to an apple turning brown. This is best prevented by adding a little lemon or orange juice and making sure it is well mixed in. Guten Appetit!!
Love this recipe! Have made it many times…
Made a double batch without the cheese and froze in small plastic containers (added a squeeze of fresh lemon juice). Used toasted walnuts. Smelled delish!!. I’ll add the freshly grated parmesand or romano cheese when I use it during the winter months. Or I may tryadding some feta or manchego as suggested by others. I also like to ideal of using the pesto for other dishes besides pasta. It’s amazing how creative you can get when you think outside the bun. I know I’ll be glad I made and froze the pesto when those cold winter winds blow in after Christmas. I made a batch a few months ago with the cheese in it and froze. I’m anxious to see if the cheese gummed up the pesto or not from being frozen. Either way it’ll be better than the stuff they sell in the grocery store
I followed this recipe verbatim and it’s absolutely delicious. Thanks for such an easy to follow recipe!
I recently made a TON of pesto, cheese included, and froze it, planning to use it all winter. I’ve read here that you advise cooks not to add cheese prior to freezing. Why is that specifically? Will it spoil or taste bad if the cheese is frozen? Or is it just that you’ve found that the cheese doesn’t taste quite as good when frozen, but but not bad or spoiled?
Parmesan cheese doesn’t taste as good after it has been frozen. ~Elise
If anybody is looking for a way to use their basil without having to make pesto, try this. I have picked my basil (and parsley), rinsed it well, dried it well, placed in ziploc bags, squeezed out air and placed in freezer. I have it to use all winter. When I need some I just reach in the bag and take what I want. Works well.
This had way too much cheese! When my friend and I made it, all we could taste was cheese. A little bit of basil, but cheese, cheese, and way more cheese! Did I mention that there was cheese? I think I’ve made my point.
Recipes are just guidelines. If you think it has too much cheese for your taste, reduce the cheese next time, or just add more basil. ~Elise
We added some feta to the recipe and no salt. It made it really smooth and creamy, and the feta added just the right amount of saltiness on its own. With sweet basil that we’re growing, it turned out really well.
Try it with toasted pecans — we’ve been doing it this way a while & prefer the taste — plus the pecans are more regional/fresh in the southeast where we live.
I did not have pine nuts in the house, so I used salted pistachios. It turned out so good (and I did not to add any extra salt.)
Yum yum! Affordable and delicious! Walnuts make a great substitute for expensive pignolias.
Tip for storing pesto:Freeze in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, pop out the cubes and then put them in a big freezer bag. You can then easily take out one or two cubes for a meal, thaw and tastes super fresh!
Just made this and it’s the best pesto I’ve ever had! I used a kind of old bag of already shredded parmesan that was in my refrigerator so I bet it would be even better with good cheese.
Gonna be tasting the garlic for a while.
I’ve been making a sauce for a tri tip recipe that I consider a pesto. We use it to dip bread in ,spoon on slices of tri tip, or mix with pasta: fresh oregano/majoram, garlic, olive oil, salt, lemon juice in a food processor.really good! might want a dose of mouthwash later for garlic breath. :)
Sounds like a chimichurri, or a South American sauce for steak that is often made with parsley and/or oregano. ~Elise
Mmm, this was so good. I made it without nuts because I didn’t have any on hand and served it as fresh pesto over salmon that was sauted in butter and garlic. It was a hit! Thanks!
Is there a pesto with out nut?
Yes, just leave out the nuts. ~Elise
Just made this and it’s absolutely yummy…. Going to add it to some pasta for dinner a little later this eve.
Thanks a million.
A few years ago, I was making pesto and realized I was out of Parmesan cheese, but I did have some Manchego cheese, so I used it instead. I will never go back! I love the pesto flavor even more with the Manchego. Also, Manchego is excellent finely shredded over pasta with marinara sauce.
My husband is prohibited from having cheese and nuts due to stage 4 chronic kidney disease. But he loves pesto. Can we still make it without losing the flavour? Would appreciate any help.
I would suggest making a chimichurri sauce with basil subbing for the parsley and oregano. You’ll have plenty of flavor. ~Elise
This is a really great recipe – thanks!
I was wondering if using half olive and half grapeseed oil would help mellow the taste of the extra virgin olive oil that some people find a bit overwhelming, especially here in the midwest. Since folks are adding mint, I am going to try using regular basil with some spicy basil. Having been in the eastern orthodox church for 25 years now, pine nuts are a staple for our diet, especially with the advent fast coming up. I might even try to substitute walnut oil and no cheese served over spaghetti squash with a garnish of roasted pine nuts and garlic and just a sprig or two of parsley. Thanks for sharing. Nike
Using half grapeseed oil sounds like an excellent idea, as grapeseed oil is just about as flavorless of an oil as you can find. ~Elise
Yum! I made this last night in bulk with my end-of-season basil. Left out the cheese and it was really good.
RE: the pasta amount question above–you can make the amount of pasta you would make for two people, and then add the pesto bit by bit, stirring until it is the amount you prefer. Everyone is different on this.
I picked , rinsed and refrigerated my basil , now the leaves have a few rust spots on them. Unfortunately, more time went by then I planned. May I still use them for making pesto?
Basil doesn’t like to be refrigerated, the best way to store it is to 1) do not rinse it, 2) place it in a jar with water, so that the bottom stems are immersed in water (like flowers in a vase), 3) put a thin plastic bag loosely over the top so that the basil doesn’t dry out, and 4) store it on a kitchen counter top. As for making pesto, I suggest discarding the damaged parts and making pesto with any leave parts that are still good. ~Elise
Does anyone have a recommendation for how much pasta works well with this much pesto (1 cup)? Is a pound too much, not enough, just right? Thanks!
I think the pesto would go well with 1/2 pound of pasta. ~Elise
I’ve made pesto using this recipe numerous times and it always turns out to be fabulous. I usually use more garlic (about 4 large cloves) and use pecorino romano instead of parmesan. Anyhow, just wanted to say thanks for this delicious recipe! It’s quick, easy, and delicious!
Can you add the flowers and seeds on the top of the plant? I’ve cooked with them and still get a pure basil flavor.
Great question. Once in a while I’ll include some of the flowers. Usually I snip off the flowering tops as the plants grow because once the flowers start to produce seeds the energy of the plant is directed into that, and the leaves don’t taste as good, at least to me. ~Elise
We make pesto every year. Sometimes we make it with lemon or thai basil, and even with garlic scapes. We spoon the finished product, cheese and all, into snack sized baggies. Then we stack those in a bigger baggie and freeze flat. Break off a bit and thaw for 30 seconds or so on low power in the nuker. It tastes great all winter long. We use it to marinade salmon, have it on asparagus, or pizza or crakcers ; )
I wonder if using cupcake papers would be a workable freezing substitute for an ice cube tray? I live with 3 guys and can’t imagine that icy pesto cubes would go over well in the freezer. (Though we’re lucky enough to have an auto-ice maker – maybe they wouldn’t notice!)
I think that the cupcake papers might stick to the frozen pesto. Of course, once you’ve defrosted them, you’d be fine. ~Elise
I have had good luck freezing the completed recipe by spooning it into a large (gallon size for me) freezer bag and rolling it flat in the bag to remove all air. I then seal the bag and freeze it as a large, square “pancake.” I can then break off and thaw just as much as I need when required and re-freeze the rest.
To me, the thawed frozen pesto tastes just as good as the “fresh.”
Sounds great! I’m planning to make this tonight, but I don’t have a food processsor. Can’t I just use a blender? Any advice would help, thanks.
You can try with a blender, but I don’t know how well it will work. You can also use a mortar and pestle to make pesto. Or just chop everything very finely with a chef’s knife. ~Elise
Pesto freezes very well without the pine nuts – I add them toasted later when I thaw. My preference is to freeze them in ice cube trays and then remove the cubes and put them in a ziplock. We enjoy pesto all year round!
You can prevent browning in the fridge or freezer by shocking your basil before making the pesto. This means that you submerge the basil in boiling water with salt and baking soda for a few seconds then put it immediately in an ice bath. This doesn’t change the flavor just keeps it green.
I use this method. I usually blanch the basil in the boiling water which is ready for the pasta I’m cooking that day and no salt or baking soda in the water….still seems to work.
I’m half Italian and have eaten all kinds of pesto. Ya just gotta love em! In an effort to lean out my pestos I now use a good chicken broth and virgin olive oil in equal amounts. Tastes good and I don’t miss the extra calories. You might play around with other broths of your liking too. Have fun with it.
I freeze mine complete with the cheese in it and haven’t had any trouble. My recipe’s about identical to yours and I’m getting ready to make a big batch this week! :) I like to freeze it flattened out in freezer bags. When I want some, I just break off a piece of the sheet.
When I got a bag of basil in my CSA this week, I knew I had to make pesto. This recipe was divine and easy for a first-time pesto maker. I added a fourth clove of garlic because I love the stuff but hardly needed a grain of salt. I will definitely make this again.
This recipe made our day( dinner). Fresh basil and garlic from the garden. Went perfect with shrimp, whole wheat pasta and tomatoes(also from the garden).
Thanks you !
I personally found that 3 cloves of garlic was a tad over powering for the ingredient ratio, I had some more basil growing outside and simply added a little more basil, a little more oil and a few roasted pine nuts to solve the problem, and must say, it worked out wonderfully. To make it a little more health conscious I use partial soy milk (or real milk if that’s what you drink) to give it a creamier taste.
I am new to the pesto world, I have bushels of basil. I have always wanted to make pesto, however beacuse of the size of our garden I do not have extra freezer space and would like to can it. What is the process for that? Is it as good? Any advice would be very much appreciated! Thank you in advance!
I’m guessing that in order for the pesto to be shelf stable and safe it would have to be cooked and then pressure canned. Haven’t done it myself. ~Elise
My mother made the same traditional recipe and I still make lots of it every summer and freeze it for the winter. We love it with fish, pasta, and on cheese & tomato sandwiches.
She made another version of pesto with fresh mint leaves and pine nuts to go with lamb. I don’t eat meat, but everyone seemed to love it.
She also made another version with parsley and walnuts.
She froze hers with the cheese in it, in little plastic containers, 4 or 6 to a freezer baggie, and it was fine.
Storing pesto – the first time I ever had home made pesto, it came from my stepdaughter at Christmas time, frozen in a Seal-a-Meal bag. It was so incredibly awesome that the next summer, I grew my own basil, bought a Seal-a-Meal machine, made pesto and froze it. It was wonderful. The Seal-a-Meal is a machine that vacuum seals the plastic bags you put the pesto in, and it never turns brown. You can buy the bags or just the material the bags are made of to make custom size bags. There are different brands of this machine, probably all equally as good. I don’t buy the brand name bags, which can be expensive – I buy no-name bags at By-Mart or Costco. I use the machine for all kinds of food storage, but it was worth the purchase just to be able to have wonderfully fresh, not-brown, pesto at any time of year! I also make my pesto with the parmesan-reggiano cheese and freeze it with the cheese and garlic in it, it comes out fine and delicious! I’m off to harvest my basil and make a bunch of different-sized bags of pesto to freeze now for the winter, and of course some will not end up frozen but enjoyed now.
Can pesto sauce be processed in a hot water bath?
If so for how long?
Pesto isn’t cooked, so no, processing in a hot water bath wouldn’t work. And if it were cooked, since it is low acid, you would need to pressure can it, a water bath wouldn’t be sufficient to kill potential botulism bacteria. ~Elise
I grow and make basil all the time. My friends and family can’t get enough. I would like to give our jars to others, but don’t like that it gets that black layer in the jar. At home I can just scoop out that covering before I use, but would not like to give it to others that way. I use some lemon juice and even place a bit of plastic wrap under the lid. Do you think I am using the wrong kind of jars or is there another trick? Please help I would like to try this for the holidays.
You might put the plastic wrap directly on the pesto so that there is no air touching it. BTW pesto should be refrigerated and eaten up within a week. As directed, these are not canning instructions. If you are thinking of making some to give as gifts for the holidays, you can freeze pesto. If you do freeze pesto, the taste will be better if you freeze it without the Parmesan, and just mix in freshly grated Parmesan when it comes time to serve. ~Elise
The recipe is pretty basic and forgiving. I don’t see any of the post discussing adding a little freshly squeezed lemon juice but we do it that way in our home and the kids suck it down….
We make or own pesto and love it. We also make a pizza with it. We get a pre packaged crust that most stores have hanging on the shelf. Coat the crust with pesto. Cube a chicken breast in about 3/8 inch cubes and brown them in a little olive oil. Put chicken on top of pesto add cheese and bake until cheese is melted. It is hard to eat any other type of pizza after eating one of these.
I just harvested my first basil from my garden and made your pesto recipe!! It was awesome – so vibrant and flavorful! My Italian & Greek grandfather would be so proud if he were here! Thanks for sharing – and thanks to all others who posted as well – I’ve learned an awful lot today! :)
Mostly I prefer my pesto without cheese although in one of my favorite “pesto experiments” I used PANIR which I made using fresh goats milk and lemon juice (to curdle the milk). The pesto was light and delicious spread thickly on bread.Thank you for sharing your recipe. Good eating to all and happy experimenting.Karen
We grow our own basil as well and this recipe is unbelievably easy. This pesto was so good! I made it exactly like the recipe says and we thought it tasted heaps better than any restaurant!
I just tried your pesto and thought it was great!
I made this recipe for the first time and it was gone within a week. I use walnuts because they are cheaper than pine nuts and I can make more pesto! The first time I made it we just stirred it into hot pasta and it was delicious. Then we were using it in everything. My son in law added it to his pumpkin soup with cheese and ricotta ravioli – perfection! Thank you so much.
People will hurf and blurf forever about the “correct” way to make pesto but in all honesty that’s like saying there’s a “correct” way to make salsa or marinara. Basil is the key, defining ingredient but everything else is supportive and thus can be substituted for similar things based on taste, availability, and cost.
The pine nuts are probably the most commonly substituted ingredient simply because pine nuts are freakin’ expensive. Cashews cost half as much and have similar flavor. Walnuts are even cheaper. If you’re really strapped you could even substitute peanuts, which cost about 1/6 what pine nuts do. The key part being provided here is a nutty flavor and a little toothiness in the mouthfeel. Most any nut will do.
The oil can also be done to taste or budget. The olive flavor from extra virgin olive oil may be indispensable to some, others may prefer light olive oil for a milder flavor. The oil here is providing fat to bind everything together, keep it fresh, and add fat to round out the flavor and make it a sauce instead of a salad.
The parmesan is in a gray area. It is second only to the basil in the amount of the flavor profile that it contributes to, so some will find it indispensable (I am one of them). However, any finely grated hard cheese will serve the purpose of thickening the oil and binding it to the other dry ingredients. Some softer ones might even work, I haven’t tried. One thing, though: in the classic recipe, the parmesan provides most or all of the salt going into the sauce. If you substitute it you’ll probably have to add some salt to taste. If you drop the cheese entirely you’ll definitely need to add some salt or it will taste bland.
The garlic can be raw or cooked. Browning the garlic slowly in some oil will get rid of the astringent properties of raw garlic, but will also mellow out the flavor. And hey, if you don’t like it, leave it out. If you can’t afford or have no access to actual garlic, find a substitution chart and sub in an appropriate amount of garlic powder.
Pesto was most likely invented as a way to make a cheap, tasty sauce when one had extra basil, using ingredients that were readily available and cheap to be had. Sticking religiously to the classic recipe is not only expensive but contradictory to the original nature of pesto. If you don’t mind using a cheaper nut, oil, or cheese, for god’s sake don’t waste your money. If you prefer a different flavor, same deal. It’s just a sauce, it isn’t like you’re baking a soufflé that’ll fall flat if you do one thing wrong.
Thanks for this recipe! This was the first time I tried cook a dish from a different cuisine, and the basil pesto came out really well. We just followed your recipe to the tee and it came out perfect! The sauce was perfect for a basic pesto pasta. Thanks again!
I have tried pesto many times and I actually prefer it with asiago cheese over parmesan but both ways are delicious. It’s also good with Balsamic vinegar.
I have never made pesto before and I didn’t have any of the regular ingredients. I used the tiny bit of basil I had with a ton of spinach, walnuts & feta cheese w/olive oil. It was sooo cream and rich! I added roasted garlic instead of raw and it gave the pesto a smoother taste.
My boyfriend and I just made this pesto tonight to eat with tortellini – it was incredibly delicious! We will definitely make it again! :)
Thanks for the recipe! I’ve been trying out several recipes for my birthday dinner, and these are one of the few I’m picking. And it’s with the addition of mint and/or flat leaf parsley!
Just wanted to chime in on this old one with some new thanks. It’s made me some great pesto three times in a row. I feel like because I succeeded with this, I can now dare to play with it. Thanks Elise!
anjjelikka, I disagree with Elise’s opinion that the pesto will not be as tasty w/o the cheese. I’ve made and had pesto elsewhere without the cheese and it is just as delicious, if not more. Something that helps give a “cheesy” flavor is to lightly toast the pinenuts and use a good quality salt.
Can you make this without cheese?
Yes, though it won’t be as tasty. ~Elise
The recipe above is a good base pesto recipe. But like some of you I like to dress it up. I always make a batch and add roasted red peppers to the blend. And then I always make a “hot” batch using a thai pepper or whatever I happen to be growing that year. Yummy. Thanks to all for sharing your variations.
To prevent the basil / pesto from turning black, just blanch the leaves and then shock them in ice water — this will give you a lovely green (or purple if that’s the colour of your leaves) for your pesto.
Does anyone wash the homegrown basil before processing? Seems that the complete drying time would take a few hours, but there’s bound to be dust and other stuff on all those leaves. Part of me wants to wash it and part of me doesn’t want to bother! Any comments?
I rinse off the basil I pick with water, check carefully for bugs, and pat dry with paper towels. ~Elise
I freeze pesto in ice cube trays, so I can pop out as many as I need. I cover the tray in plastic cling wrap and make sure the wrap is sitting right down on the pesto to help prevent colour change
I’ve tried a number of recipes for pesto including different types of cheeses (I kinda like asiago). During the off season I find that using dried basil works just fine, and is easier to prepare than frozen pesto. I cut the dried basil to 1/2 the quantity of fresh leaves.
Hope you can answer this question: we too have lots of basil and would much prefer to ‘bottle’ it and store it in the cupboard instead of in the freezer. Does anyone know a pesto recipe that can be stored this way?
Last year I had an abundance of fresh herbs, including basil, oregano, parsley and thyme, and minced them all in the food processor with very good olive oil. I put the mixture into a lidded cup and froze it and used it all winter when I needed fresh herbs for a dish. I didn’t add salt, as I used what I needed in the dish. It made for a great, fresh herbal taste all during the off-season!
I used this recipe the first time I made pesto- it turned out pretty good! After a few tries I wanted it to be a little creamy, so I added a few drops of milk- and it helped a lot.Good job on the recipe anyway. My entire family loves it!
@Cristina-One of the restaurants I used to work at had us mix spinach, about half & half, with basil for their pesto. Don’t really notice the spinach and it kind of softens the taste of the pesto a little. Was never sure if it was a taste thing of if they just did it to extend the basil, but it made nice pesto.
I was wondering if you could add a bit of baby spinach for some added nutritional value without throwing off the taste of traditional pesto? Any thoughts?
I actually ran out of basil so filled in the blanks with equal parts spinach and arugula. Also added a bit of lemon zest and some lemon juice. Really came out delicious!
Oh I also toasted walnuts and pine nuts per the amount required in the recipe. Just didn’t have enough pine nuts but it turned out great with the walnut mix!
In reference to freezing the Pesto; How long can Pesto remain frozen and still be safe to eat?…….Can it be frozen for longer than 9 mths?I want to freeze some Pesto during the summer and not use it until the winter or even the spring……
I’ve used frozen pesto that’s a year old. Was fine. ~Elise
I am glad to find this recipe. My basil plant is going crazy and falling over – this will surely help me put it to good use. Now the big problem that remains unsolved – what do I do about my sweet basil plant that is going crazy? I can’t find any recipes that will help me use it up… any suggestions are welcome.
Sprinkle chopped basil over a pizza fresh from the oven, tear a few leaves into a green salad, or this recipe which is wonderful for using up tomatoes and basil both-http://www.marthastewart.com/978784/one-pan-pasta.
Fabulous! I just made this, first time making pesto and it was wonderful over pasta with asparagus stuffed chicken. Yumm!
Thanks for the recipe. First time making pesto. Sure beats the ready made stuff one buys from the store. I don’t own a food processor so used a mortar and pestle instead. first ground the pine nuts with garlic, put aside, start grinding the leaves and adding the garlic/nuts mixture back. started adding olive oil when it gets too sticky, then the grated cheese. All the quantities are estimated but the end result was not bad. Licked the spoon clean. :)
I froze a bunch of pesto last year in ziplock bags. I squeezed all the air out and never had any turn black.
Also, when I thaw and use the pesto, after I squeeze every bit out of the bag, I run some vinegar through the bag to clean out the last remants. I use this for salad dressing, and it’s wonderful!
This is my first year ever both growing and making pesto. question about the garlic; are “3” bulbs of garlic, the garlic with all the little peelable little sections still attached, or “3” little peeled pieces of the big bulb?
The recipe calls for 3 “cloves” of garlic. One bulb of garlic will contain 10 to 15 cloves or segments of garlic. ~Elise
Thanks for these recipes. Deb, thanks for the tip about blanching. I just made some pesto from a bunch of blanched leaves.
This is the first time I have made Pesto and this recipe is wonderful. Used Walnuts, not pinenuts but just tasty. The husband loved it too.
Hey Dru Cook,I tried your recipe. It is very yummy. The olive oil tastes very “green” for my taste but I think with pesto it is all about specific ingredients and adjusting to tastes.
My question is about jaring in a presure cooker. Can this be done with basil? I would like to make basil and add it to my basket of jared goods that I give out.
First blanch the basil, squeeze out the water and continue-always beautiful green even when frozen.
The chilli aspects sounds interesting. I normally use pine nuts (toasted), but saw a recipe using sunflower seeds, so made some yesterday. Really good.
I have been freezing my pesto for years in jars-no breakage, just remember to leave a little space at top for expansion. I also put a layer of plastic wrap directly on the top of the pesto before I put the lid on. Press the plastic wrap firmly down and smooth out with fingertips so that no air can get to the pesto. It’s worked for me. I have also added the cheese and garlic before I freeze and it seems to taste pretty good that way, too. Thaw in refridgerator. I have kept it as long as two weeks in the fridge afterwards with no problems, but think one week is probably safer. Loretta
Not having pine nuts on hand, I used cashews. I also grated the garlic on a micro plane ensuring there would be no bits of garlic to bite into. I greased a muffin tin, put the pesto in and quick froze. Then I popped the frozen pesto “cupcakes” out, put them in a big freezer bag and stored in freezer for future use. I varied the size of the “cupcakes” so that I would have all sizes and not have to deal with leftover pesto.
Well, here in Greece basil is… everywhere…and we also have “winter basil” plants which means that they have leaves during winter too… I simply love pesto. I add it almost everywhere. Just a spoonflull almost on top of evry salad, sandwich, grilled meat, even fish… I cannot get enough of it. And my questions are rwo:1)The same as dru asks Juanita. Dont the jars break in the freezer or are they special for freezers?2)I have tried everything and i cannot avoid discoloration. Even if you add oil on top, you have to keep on doing it everytime you scoop out some pesto from the jar. That means that with each addition the mixture turns more oily everytime. Plus, everytime you take some from the jar, even to use it as spread on a slice of warm whole weat bread, you put all that oil on it too. So any other ideas would be appreciated although i think there is no solution to this.God bless you all, keep those mixers spinning!
We use those tiny Mason jars, in the fridge and freezer. They are the perfect portion size. Make great gifts too ;).
I love pesto – and I have 72 Basil plants out in the Greenhouse… just finished making several batches of it and some is in Mason Jars in the Fridge with a layer of Olive oil covering it. Some is in a jar for immediate use over the next couple of days (partially consumed during the pesto making session).
I am also trying to freeze some in ice cube trays and once frozen I hope to save the cubes in a foodsaver bag…(this is an experiment as I have never frozen pesto)- I am curious about the freezing of pesto in those small mason jars as Juanita mentions above… would the jars not break when the pesto freezes and expands? I would love to hear more on that as this way I can top with olive oil to prevent the discoloration I hope.
My Pesto recipe is as follows;
2 cups Fresh Basil leaves (Well Packed)4 large cloves fresh Garlic1/2 cup Pine Nuts (Toasted GBD)3/4 tsp Sea Salt1/2 tsp Freshly Ground Pepper3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano freshly grated1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
GBD means Golden Brown and Delicious. The Sea Salt is the table salt grain size not kosher size. Parmigiano-Reggiano… There is really no substitute in my opinion for the real thing – and finally Extra Virgin Olive Oil – yes this is the time for the good stuff!
Leave a 1/2 inch head space in your canning jars for expansion and you will not have any breakage. For me the biggest problem is knocking a jar off the freezer shelf onto the concrete garage floor and breaking them.
I do not have a food processor, I have a hand chopper. Could I use this to make the pesto?
Note from Elise: You can chop the basil by hand. My friend Heidi has a great approach for hand chopped basil pesto that you might want to consider.
Here’s a fabulous and absurdly easy main dish:
Set oven to 350 degrees. Place salmon fillets on a greased sheet of aluminum foil, in a pan or cookie sheet. Slather with pesto, and bake 20 minutes at 350 (or until fish just starts to flake).
That’s it! Saute some fresh veggies while the fish is cooking, serve with rice or potatoes, and you have a wonderful meal.
If the fillets have the skin on, and you don’t want to serve it that way, don’t grease the foil. The skin will stick to the foil, and you can cleanly lift the cooked fish with a spatula.
I never add salt to pesto because there’s enough salt in the cheese. The pine nuts add much more flavour when toasted but heat a single layer gently in a frying pan until they are just golden.
Adding a little lemon juice will help to stop the pesto darkening when defrosted.
We add about 3 serrano chili’s to our pesto just to give it a kick. We have also made pesto using cilantro ..same recipe you would use for the basil pesto and that is delicious mixed in a black bean soup or black bean paste served with lightly seasoned and grilled turkey. YummmThe serranos in our garden are not very hot which is why we add so many but add per your taste. I don’t roast mine before adding them to the basil. I drop them in while the basil leaves are being blended. We also use about double the garlic.
Pistachio nuts also work well instead of pine nuts.
Was just browsing on a break at work and was looking for new uses for pesto. I saw the chicken cubes with tomatoes (above). I could see those wrapped up in some butter or boston lettuce leaves for a quick lunch wrap. Yummy will have to try.
I also noticed other pesto recipes hanging out in the recipe shop and thought I’d add my 2 cents. I’ve made variations of both cilantro and arugula pestos (I’ve also added the parsely before like Rhonda). All delicious!
Other pestos I’ve made: turnip greens and walnuts, mushroom with walnuts, sundried tomatoes with pine nuts/walnuts (particularly tasty over baked polenta), a mixture of arugala and watercress and pines ( I’ve used pecans before too).
When pesto was put to me in simply terms I could understand (simply a thick raw sauce), I kinda went a little crazy.
Now I’m off (when I leave work) to make the traditional pesto and dress some of those chicken cubes for some some mini wraps….My mouth is watering already.
My favorite is roasted red pepper pesto.
As for Basil pesto my favorite use is on BBQ chicken pizza.
I also make a pesto that I freeze, I learned this from my mother. We put lots of fresh basil into food processor, add about 3 bulbs of garlic (yes lots of garlic!), and while processing add very good quality olive oil until it makes a nice consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. This time I added too much olive oil so I went into my backyard picked our flat leaf Italian parsley and added that for extra flavour! Let mixture sit in bowl for an hour to cure. Then put pesto into small canning jars. Don’t fill too much leave room to cover pesto with olive oil (this keeps air from getting to your prized basil.) Screw caps on clean jars tightly then freeze. When you need pesto take a jar out of freezer let dethaw and keep in fridge. After each time you use pesto out of fridge put a bit more oil on top to keep air off pesto again. Pesto will last a few weeks in your fridge. When done that jar get a new one out of freezer. Hope this idea helps someone.
Hello, can you freeze basil leaves and not make pesto? Thanks. Juanita
Yes, see Kalyn’s tips for freezing basil. ~Elise
This is my first time in trying to make pesto. Always waited for my friend to make it. I found your receipe on the internet and tried it. It was so easy and great. The only thing I did different was that I didn’t have any pine nuts only smoked almonds I used them and it was great. Looking forward to finding more receipes from you.
Two pesto comments:We freeze just the basil leaves tossed with a bit of olive oil. This works perfect and you can use the frozen basil leaves for other dishes. We stuff 2 cups into zip lock bags and squeeze the air out. I usually put up about 40 packages a year. You can cut your basil back, put up the leaves and it will grow again for another harvest.
We use almonds in our pesto. I don’t know how we got started on that, but we’re used to the taste and actually prefer it to walnuts or pine nuts. We also toss the pesto with about 2 cups of cottage cheese per one pound of spaghetti. We like it that way. We eat pesto about once a week here!
I have successfully frozen pesto for years and prevent the top turning black by adding a thin film of olive oil to the container before I place it in the freezer (I think it prevents air discoloring the basil). Good to freeze in an iceblock tray, although it freezes soft and it is not difficult to break small amounts off a largish block for use. Happy eating!
Covering with a layer of olive oil is an excellent way to keep the pesto from darkening.
I have been making pesto for several years and have found that the top of the pesto turns black or brown after refrigeration or freezing. What causes this and what can be done to prevent it? It doesn’t change the taste, just looks awful. Thanks!
Hi Fred,Pesto will turn dark if in contact with oxygen. So the best way to store it (like guacamole) is to put a layer of plastic wrap directly on top of the pesto, to keep it from being exposed to air.
I was wondering, is it possible to make pesto using almond meal instead of pine or walnuts?
You can make pesto with practically any nut, almonds will work too. ~Elise
I sent this recipe to my friend Meredith, who purchased half a pound of basil on Sunday. We just had it with a really great pasta, with a bit of wilted spinach. Our minds are officially blown, this was delicious. She was going to freeze it, but I have a feeling this is going to be gone by the end of the week before that actually happens.
We love pesto. Instead of olive oil I use a cake of firm tofu and 2/3c. milk for the base. Makes up for the high calorie nuts, I guess!
You cannot compensate for the taste of the pine seeds with tofu and milk!
she said substitute the Olive Oil not the nuts :)
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.
Salena so glad you posted this about toasting the pine nuts!! I was thinking of toasting them but none of the recipes I have read called for toasting them. I am sure going to toast mine!!
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.
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.
Mine came out a little pasty consitency, I’m thinking maybe I used too little oil for the amount of basil I had or I added to much cheese?
Hi Maggie, you can easily make adjustments and add more oil to your desired consistency.
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.
Hi Gina, I’ve always been told that Parmesan doesn’t freeze well and if you want to freeze pesto to freeze it before you add the cheese. That said, several people I know freeze pesto, cheese and all, without a problem. You’ll want to use it up within a year.
Just heard a foodie segment on NPR…definitely do NOT try to freeze cheeses.
My husband and I, make all kinds of pesto to freeze in ice cube trays every year, and I never leave out the cheese. It turns out totally fine. Arugula, kale, spinach, and other greens can be substituted for the basil. I always use toasted walnuts or toasted almonds in my pesto, due to the cost of pine nuts, plus I like their flavors better. After it’s all frozen solid in the ice tray, then we pop them out and use the Food Saver vacuum on them, individually, to preserve them for up to two years.
Basil grows like weed in our yard.I have more than I will ever use in a season.I make pesto…very close recipe to the one above and freeze itBeen doing it for years.It has always tasted yummy and never had an issue with it.We buy cheese in bulk and freeze it.Its not so hot for an appetizer tray but it works great in recipes.