Basic Pesto Sauce Recipe

Fresh pesto is one of my absolute favorite summer indulgences. There’s nothing quite like picking basil from a container out on the deck (or from the bounty in your garden) and whipping up a quick batch. You can dress pasta with it, use it as pizza sauce, set it out as an appetizer with dipping bread, or if you’re like me – stand in the kitchen with a bowl of it and go through cracker after cracker scooping up that wonderful fresh basil goodness (oops). After I made the Portobello Pesto Pizza a number of you asked for the pesto recipe that I used for the sauce, so without further ado…

My recipe for pesto isn’t completely traditional but  you can easily make a couple of substitutions to suit your tastes. Traditionally, pesto is made with basil, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. Because I like to use what’s on hand and not spend tons of money on extra ingredients, I almost always make my pesto with walnuts because I buy them in bulk to bake with and always have a big bag on hand (and pine nuts are expensive). I use Romano cheese in place of Parmesan for the same reason.

My beloved basil plant, which has provided me with numerous batches of fresh pesto this summer:

And my new favorite way to use pesto – as pizza sauce. I fell in love with the Portobello Pesto Pizza!

What’s your favorite way to enjoy a fresh batch of pesto?

One year ago: Snickerdoodle Blondies
Two years ago: Bananas Foster Banana Bread
Three years ago: Bagels
Four years ago: Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins

Basic Pesto Recipe

Yield: About 1 cup

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes


2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup olive oil
½ cup Romano cheese


In a food processor or blender, pulse together the basil, walnuts and garlic 5 to 7 times. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Scrape down the sides of the machine and add the cheese. Pulse a few more times to blend.


49 Responses to “Basic Pesto Sauce Recipe”

  1. Jenn (Cookies Cupcakes Cardio) on July 19, 2011 at 1:10 am

    I LOVE pesto…and I have basil growing in my garden (they look pretty pathetic compared to yours though!) My favourite way to enjoy pesto is on whole wheat fusilli! I cant wait to try your version with walnuts.


  2. jaclyn@todayslady on July 19, 2011 at 2:10 am

    Believe it or not, I’ve never had fresh pesto before! I’ve only had the jarred stuff from the grocery store. I know I’m missing out though. I’d definitely use walnuts too. I always have them on hand and pine nuts are so so expensive!


  3. Paula on July 19, 2011 at 3:33 am

    Love pesto! In fact, I have about a dozen basil plants in my garden to keep my pesto addition aptly supplied throughout the summer (with some left to freeze for the winter months!). I have your portabello pesto pizza on the queue for this week’s dinner plan!


  4. Nachiketa Chandra on July 19, 2011 at 4:40 am

    You’ve reminded me of my love for pizza…. wasn’t having them as i love mine loaded with cheese….. this is a healthier option…. Thanks…

    Lovely Post…


  5. Anne on July 19, 2011 at 4:49 am

    I also love it. I usually put it on (buffalo) mozzarella and sliced tomatoes or I marinate chicken with it before putting it on the griddle and, finally, shredding it to put it in a yummy chicken pasta salad.


  6. Valerie on July 19, 2011 at 5:12 am

    I like your pesto! As you say it’s not the traditional one, but i love the idea of walnuts in it!!


  7. Blog is the New Black on July 19, 2011 at 5:29 am

    I love pesto on just about anything! Esp on a sandwich with mozz and tomatoes!


  8. Brittany @ Itty Bits of Balance on July 19, 2011 at 7:22 am

    I’m making this tonight– and I’m not just saying that.
    My brother has been growing a basil plant so this is PERFECT! Thank you thank you thank you!!!!


  9. Katrina on July 19, 2011 at 7:28 am

    I love pesto! This sounds wonderful.


  10. Heather (Heather's Dish) on July 19, 2011 at 7:40 am

    love pesto on pizza! it adds such a great flavor and really changes up the options you have for toppings…what’s not to love?!


  11. Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts on July 19, 2011 at 7:43 am

    Love pesto! I like to switch up the nuts and change the flavor slightly, but always come back to the basic! It is awesome on pizza, I agree!


  12. Lynne @ 365 Days of Baking on July 19, 2011 at 8:36 am

    I just made this for the first time a few days ago!! Finally, after all these years I now have gorgeous Basil plant that I haven’t killed. It’s SO exciting and the pesto was delicious! I’ll have to try it with the walnuts next time as I usually have more of those on hand, too.


  13. Dorothy on July 19, 2011 at 8:59 am

    We are big lovers of pesto in my house! My favorite way to use it is to grill some chicken sausage, cut into pieces and serve with pasta and the pesto! Also, grilled/broiled chicken breast with pesto rice! (I boil my rice with chicken broth and stir in a couple of spoonsful of pesto when its done)


  14. Dorothy on July 19, 2011 at 9:01 am

    oh– I almost forgot. We love our grilled cheese with pesto smeared on the bread and nice sharp cheddar.
    I also made Jalapeno pest last summer with my bumper crop of jalapenos. Just added a few jalapenos and a squeeze of lime.


    • Michelle on July 20th, 2011 at 10:38 am

      That grilled cheese sounds DELICIOUS! Totally making that!


  15. Kristi on July 19, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Sounds really good!! Have you ever made this with pecans? I love pecans and that might add yet another twist to a great sauce. I will certainly try this out! I have tons of basil growing on the patio.


    • Michelle on July 20th, 2011 at 10:38 am

      I have never made it with pecans, but I bet they would be great too!


  16. jamie on July 19, 2011 at 9:47 am

    i love that i only have to type in ‘b’ in my google chrome and it knows that i want to come here. thanks for blogging. and for that PB fudge cheesecake.

    as for pesto, i’m intrigued. for some reason, i’ve never really had any. sounds lovely though, so i think i’ll give it a try. how do you measure the leaves? just loosely packed in the cup? thanks!


  17. Courtney on July 19, 2011 at 10:57 am

    This is my favorite way to eat pesto:

    Thanks for the tip on using walnuts instead of pine nuts. I usually always have those on hand as well and you’re right…pine nuts are darn expensive!


  18. sherri lynn on July 19, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Yum I love pesto! I bought a basil plant last week so I could grow my own basil to make pesto. 1 day later, I had a dead plant on my hands! So sad. But this recipe is making me want basil all over again! A pesto pizza sounds delicious, too!


  19. Ann on July 19, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Nothing beats a good, home-made pesto. Your basil plant is just thriving! I tend to eat fresh basil so fast that my plants shake and molt when I walk by!


  20. Jen of My Tiny Oven on July 19, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    My basil plant is HUGE! I have been wanting to try making my own pesto and now I have the perfect recipe! Thanks!!


  21. Kayla on July 19, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    I adore pesto! Unfortunately my basil plants aren’t doing very well this year. I sometimes use walnuts, but I usually spring for pine nuts because I love their flavor! I made some pesto using cilantro once and used it as pizza sauce for a southwestern pizza, it was fantastic!


  22. kim maselbas on July 19, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Can you freeze pesto? My basil is growing great & we are making some tonight but just wondering if it’s still yummy after being frozen too?


    • Kristin on July 19th, 2011 at 1:45 pm


      Just read your question – I love pesto to the point where I ALWAYS have to have it on hand. The only way to do that is by freezing it so that is exactly what I do! I make a big batch of it then I portion it out in plastic pint containers and just pop them in the freezer. I have kept pesto frozen for months and it always comes out fine. When you want to defrost, just leave it in the fridge or out at room temperature. You can even microwave to speed it up if you want. Just make to stir in intervals after every 15 seconds or so.

      Hope this helps!


      • kim maselbas on July 19th, 2011 at 3:21 pm

        Yes it does. Thanks so much. Just made a batch & will use it tonight but now that I can freeze it just fine will make lots more. Thanks again!


        • Kristin on July 19th, 2011 at 3:56 pm

          You’re very welcome! Enjoy 🙂


  23. Adora's Box on July 19, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Your pesto looks so good. You gave me ideas on dipping things in. Makes me want to eat it now. Focaccia?


  24. Chelsea Talks Smack on July 19, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    This sounds delicious and actually, like something I could make 🙂 WEE!


  25. Elizabeth @TheBareMidriff on July 19, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Good timing – I’m planning on making pesto this week!


  26. Christine on July 19, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Pesto looks wonderful! Love it!


  27. Heidi @ Food Doodles on July 19, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    That looks fantastic. I love pesto too and I know exactly what you mean about pine nuts – they are crazy expensive! Love using walnuts instead 🙂 And I love that you put it on pizza, that sounds amazing.


  28. Dani Katarina on July 19, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    This recipe looks awesome! I have never tried it with the walnuts before!!! Always down to try something NEW! 🙂


  29. Rivki Locker (Ordinary Blogger) on July 19, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    OK, I’m headed out to my deck RIGHT now to make some of this. I make pesto almost every week and you just got me hankering for some.


  30. Ally on July 19, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Pesto is probably the best thing since peanut butter xo


  31. tom(watkins products associate0 on July 19, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    have never tried it but looks, well, green


  32. Katie @ NYCitified on July 19, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    Excellent timing on this recipe, I’m making pesto for dinner tomorrow night and was just in the process of digging up the recipe! I usually throw in some arugula just to spice things up but I’m totally jealous of your basil plant 🙂


  33. Jackie on July 19, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    I use this exact recipe except I substitute sunflower seeds for the pine nuts. You’re so right, pine nuts are expensive!! I’ve used walnuts as well, both are heavenly and add that needed crunch. I have three basil plants in my breakfast nook just for pesto!!


  34. Jen on July 19, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    We love pesto in our house–even the boy who thinks ketchup is both a vegetable AND a highly sophisticated condiment. One of my favorite ways to use it is to stir it into mayonnaise…probably 2 parts pesto to one 1 part mayo. Or however you like it. Then you use it to slather on a baguette and top it with shaved cold turkey, roasted peppers, tomatoes and some aged provolone. YUM.


  35. Jennifer Eloff on July 20, 2011 at 9:33 am

    That sounds like a lovely sauce for a different pizza. Yum! Wish I could get my hands on fresh basil. 🙂

    Congrats on Top 9. That is how I found you!


  36. natalie (the sweets life) on July 20, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Like you, I use walnuts in my pesto!

    This pesto quiche is one of my favorites!!


  37. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction on July 20, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    I love pesto in the summer… Especially slathered on a nice piece of crusty bread! I, too, often make mine with walnuts!


  38. Sheena on July 22, 2011 at 12:53 am

    I make a ‘creamy pesto chicken & pasta’ that is a fav in our home. You read my mind, I was just thinking the other day that I need to try home-made Pesto. I will definitely be giving this a try. Thanks for another great recipe!!!


  39. Nancy J on July 23, 2011 at 11:27 am

    I love pesto, too! Thanks for sharing the recipe. Your portobello pesto pizza made me almost cry…it looked so so so delicious, making me want to dive into the screen to take a bite… A long time ago I made pesto with petitas and and another time with peas. People said it was quite good and interesting. I just thought some people might be interested…so here’s the link.


  40. Skylar on July 24, 2011 at 9:25 am

    I’m with you on the walnuts, much cheaper than pine nuts, and I really enjoy the texture they give to pesto. Looks delicious


  41. Kaitlin on July 25, 2011 at 11:33 am

    Pesto is one of my favorite summer treats as well. I plan on making some this week 🙂


  42. Tina on July 26, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Excellent! So much better than the jarred kind. We made pizza with it spread on whole wheat crust with thin sliced onions, tomato slices, and fresh mozzarella. Delicious!


  43. Sarah @ Recipe Love on August 7, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Made it! But with pistachios instead of walnuts, because I was out. It turned out surprisingly yummy!


  44. Lisa on March 6, 2013 at 8:26 am

    Made this yesterday, had to use a a blend of “extra virgin olive oil/canola oil” b/c I was out of just regular olive oil. and I had to parm. b/c I didn’t Romano. But it still tasted awesome! Baked some fresh bread – and it was heavenly! Love the idea of using walnuts – great money saver!


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