How to Make the Pesto Recipe of Your Dreams

This recipe for classic pesto sauce is made with fresh basil and only five ingredients; use it for pasta, chicken salad, a spread on sandwiches, or pizza! Keep your refrigerator stocked with it this summer and put that beautiful basil in your garden (or on your deck!) to good use.

A bowl of homemade pesto with a spoon in it.

If you’ve taken the plunge and planted a garden this year, whether in the ground, in raised beds, or in containers, I suspect that basil is one of the things you decided to grow. And why not?! It’s incredibly easy to grow, smells amazing and will reward you with massive yields of those large, earthy leaves.

Is it just me or do you pluck them and then sniff the heck out of them? Ahhh that woodsy, slightly spicy smell is intoxicating.

I’m happy to pile basil on top of fresh mozzarella and garden tomatoes and call it a day, but if you have a true bounty of basil, you’ll need to gift it to all of your friends and neighbors or start whipping up batches of pesto. It is incredibly easy to make, super versatile, and is a wonderful candidate for freezing.

Basil, pine nuts, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor.

Basic Pesto Ingredients

Pesto is made with a very short list of ingredients that you may have on hand already:

  • Basil! – The fresher, the better.
  • Nuts – Pine nuts are traditional here, but I’ve often used walnuts with success.
  • Garlic – Really catapults the flavor; use fresh garlic here and save the jarred stuff for quick cooking.
  • Olive Oil – Pulls the whole thing together and gives pesto that smooth texture.
  • Cheese – Parmesan cheese is traditionally used, but I’ve substituted Romano without issue!
  • Salt and Pepper – Extra flavor.

Basil, pine nuts and garlic pulsed together in a food processor.

Pesto Recipe Basics

Making pesto in a food processor or blender is quick and easy! Gather of all your ingredients and let’s get started…

  1. Pulse together the basil, pine nuts, and garlic until they are finely chopped.
  2. Stream in olive oil while the machine is running, then scrape down the sides.
  3. Add the cheese and pulse to incorporate.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste (I find it doesn’t need a TON more salt, but I do love a healthy dose of cracked black pepper.

Parmesan cheese added to chopped basil mixture in food processor.

That’s all there is to it! Only five minutes and you have crazy fresh pesto with that gorgeous plant you’ve been tending to since getting it in the ground. If that doesn’t feel like a massive dose of satisfaction, I don’t know what does.

If you’re really in over your head in basil production, be sure to freeze that pesto to get you through the winter (see recipe notes for instructions!). You can almost feel that summer sun beating down on you while the snow is falling mid-January.

Baguette spread with pesto and topped with halved cherry tomatoes.

My favorite ways to use pesto: my portobello pesto pizza (which I had to recreate years ago after eating something similar at Church Brew Works here in Pittsburgh, although regrettably, it doesn’t seem to still be on the menu!), pesto chicken salad, and open-faced veggie sandwiches. All are amazingly delicious!

How do you like to use fresh pesto? Share in the comments below!

More Recipes That Use Fresh Basil

A bowl of pesto with basil leaves and chunks of Parmesan cheese surrounding it.

Four years ago: Classic Lasagna
Five years ago: Cream Cheese Cherry Pie Crumb Bars
Six years ago: Veggie Pizza Appetizer
Seven years ago: Cookies and Cream Ice Cream
Nine years ago: Rocky Road Ice Cream
Ten years ago: Italian Supreme Calzones

Pesto Recipe

Servings 1 cup
Prep 5 minutes
Total 5 minutes
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Michelle

A recipe for classic pesto sauce made with fresh basil and only five ingredients; use it for pasta, chicken salad, a spread on sandwiches, or pizza!

Ingredients:

  • 2
    cups
    fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3
    cup
    pine nuts
  • 3
    cloves
    garlic
    (minced)
  • ½
    cup
    olive oil
  • ½
    cup
    Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. In a food processor or blender, pulse together the basil, pine nuts and garlic 5 to 7 times, until finely chopped.

  2. 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.

  3. Serve immediately or store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Recipe Notes:

  • You can substitute chopped walnuts for the pine nuts.
  • Romano cheese can be substituted for Parmesan.
  • To freeze, spoon the pesto into an ice cube tray and place in the freezer until completely frozen. Remove from the tray and place the cubes in a ziploc freezer bag, and freeze for up to 2 months. You can add to a cooked recipe from frozen, or thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

Nutrition:

Calories: 1427kcal
Fat: 147g
Saturated fat: 25g
Cholesterol: 52mg
Sodium: 606mg
Potassium: 392mg
Carbohydrates: 11g
Fiber: 3g
Sugar: 1g
Protein: 23g
Vitamin A: 2740%
Vitamin C: 11.5%
Calcium: 672%
Iron: 3.7%

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!

Update Notes: This recipe was originally published in July 2011; updated in June 2019 with new photos, a better recipe, and extra notes and tips.

[photos by Ari of Well Seasoned]