This easy homemade Basil Pesto Recipe is made from simple and delicious ingredients including fresh basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and olive oil. Ready in under 10 minutes, find out how to make this classic basil pesto right at home!
What is Pesto?
Pesto is a green sauce with its origins firmly rooted in Genoa, Italy. The word “pesto” is derived from the Genoese verb pestâ (Italian: pestare) which means “to crush/pound”. Traditionally, the ingredients would have been ground in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle.
Anything that is made by this method of pounding and crushing can technically be considered a pesto.
What is pesto alla Genovese (“Genoese pesto”)? Any pesto recipe whos main ingredients consist of basil, garlic, oil, grated hard cheese, and pine nuts.
For the full list and amounts of ingredients, scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of the page.
Fresh basil: Fresh basil is paramount to achieving a delicious pesto recipe (at least in the case of this pesto alla Genovese). Always purchase a little more than the recipe calls for as some leaves may not be as fresh and the stems will need to be removed before processing.
Pine nuts: Pine nuts are nuts, so definitely skip them if you have a nut allergy. Nut-free alternatives include pepitas or hemp seeds. Love nuts but hate the price of pine nuts? Walnuts and cashews are a great alternative.
Garlic: You guys, two things about garlic- first, use fresh garlic. Not the powdered stuff. Second, don’t overwhelm your pesto with tons of garlic. This is hard for me because I love garlic, but it will take away from the freshness of your sauce.
Hard Cheese: In this recipe, I added Parmigiano-Reggiano (aka Parmesan cheese). Delicious, available virtually everywhere, Parmigiano-Reggiano is probably the most common cheese that you’ll find in pesto. Another popular alternative includes Pecorino Sardo (a hard cheese made from sheep’s milk).
Olive oil: You really want to add an olive oil that tastes good TO YOU. Vegetable oil is a no go.
How to Make Homemade Basil Pesto Recipe
To make this easy pesto recipe you will need the following tools and equipment:
Step 1. Process the pine nuts, garlic, and basil
Trim the stems from approximately 3-4 packed cups of fresh basil. Discard the stems and rinse the leaves in fresh, cool water and dry thoroughly (this is where a salad spinner comes in handy).
Step 2. Slow and steady with the oil
With the motor running the whole time, drizzle the oil into the food processor, slow and steady. Process until mostly smooth. Note that you may need to turn off your food processor and remove the lid to scrape down the sides once or twice halfway through adding the oil.
Add the parmesan cheese and process just until combined. Stir in salt, to taste.
How to use basil pesto?
The first and most popular choice is pasta. Comforting and super simple, pesto with pasta or tortellini is my son’s favorite pasta EVER (aside from mac and cheese, of course).
To serve with pasta simply,
- Cook your favorite pasta (approx. 12 ounces) to al dente in a big pot of salted water. Reserve at least 1 cup of boiling pasta water before draining the pasta.
- Transfer the cooked pasta back to the pot along with 2-3 tablespoons of butter, 1/4-1/2 cup of reserved pasta water, and your prepared pesto. Toss to coat, adding more reserved water, as needed.
- Season with additional salt, pepper, and additional parmesan cheese, if desired.
Looking for something a little different? Add it to baked spaghetti squash, minestrone soup, or mac and cheese! Prepare simple baked pesto chicken and top with gooey melted mozzarella and serve sandwiched between a bun.
What to do with leftover pesto?
You have two options – store your leftovers in the refrigerator or freeze.
To store your leftovers in the refrigerator transfer pesto to a storage container (such as a small glass pyrex bowl or small glass mason jar) and top with a thin layer of oil. The top layer of oil will help prevent browning. Next, cover with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to touch the oil directly, and transfer to the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
For best results, freeze this pesto recipe without the cheese (you can add it later after the pesto has been defrosted). Fill a silicone ice cube tray with pesto or freeze in a small glass container with a tight-fitting lid. Use within 4-6 months.
More basil recipes,
- Thai Basil Chicken Recipe (Pad Kra Pao Gai)
- Bruschetta Recipe
- Balsamic Tomato Basil Salad
- Homemade Tomato Basil Soup Recipe
- Sausage and Vegetable Soup with Easy Basil Pesto
- Grilled Lamb Kebab Platter with Basil Goat Cheese
If you try making this Easy Basil Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
REMEMBER TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE FORKED SPOON NEWSLETTER FOR FREE AND RECEIVE WEEKLY RECIPE NOTIFICATIONS DELIVERED STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX!
Basil Pesto Recipe
- ⅓ cup pine nuts
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 cups fresh basil leaves - stems removed, packed
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Add the pine nuts, garlic, and fresh basil to the bowl of a food processor and process until finely minced, scraping down the sides as needed.
- With the motor running, very slowly drizzle the oil in the food processor, slowly and steadily. Process until mostly smooth - you may need to remove the lid and scrape down the sides once half-way through adding the oil.
- Add the cheese and process just until combined. Stir in salt, to taste.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)