Classic Pesto Recipe
This basil pesto recipe comes together in 5 minutes for a fresh and flavorful summer sauce. Made with basil, garlic, pine nuts, cheese, and olive oil, this classic Italian condiment is the only recipe you need! Perfect for pizzas, pasta, sandwiches, and more, you will want to serve this pesto with everything!
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.
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.
What is It?
This fresh sauce made from basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, and a salty hard cheese might possibly be the oldest Italian sauce. You may also see it called Pesto alla Genovese after the town of Genoa, where it originated.
Traditionally, pesto was made by grinding the ingredients with a mortar and pestle then mixing in the olive oil. This is how pesto received its name because in Italian the word pesto means pounded. Thankfully, you can now easily whip up a batch of pesto without manually pounding the ingredients thanks to the convenience of a food processor or blender.
Pick the BEST Ingredients
Since this pesto recipe is made with a shortlist of raw ingredients, picking the best quality of each helps ensure the final pesto packs in the flavor. Here are my tips for selecting the best ingredients for your homemade pesto:
- Basil! – The fresher, the better. Be sure to rinse the leaves and if they are spotty or have lots of veins, toss them.
- Nuts – Pine nuts are traditional here. A package is a bit pricy but they store in the freezer and will last you all pesto season.
- Garlic – Really catapults the flavor; use fresh garlic here and save the jarred stuff for quick cooking.
- Olive Oil – Arguably as important as the basil, you want to select a good quality extra virgin olive oil with a mild flavor.
- Cheese – Adds a salty nutty finish to the pesto, I typically use parmesan.
- Salt and Pepper – Extra flavor.
Some of the ingredients can easily be swapped for something you might already have on hand. Here are a few common variations for the different ingredients in fresh pesto.
- Pine Nuts: Whether you don’t like the flavor, can’t find them at the store, or are looking for ways to switch it up, you can also use walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or pecans.
- Nut-free: If you want a nut-free option you can swap the pine nuts for sunflower seeds.
- Parmesan: Use another hard salty cheese in place of parmesan such as Pecorino Romaro, Asiago, or aged manchego.
- Cheese-free: Swap the cheese for nutritional yeast. You’ll get that same salty nutty flavor without the side effects of dairy.
Quick & Easy Step-By-Step Directions
Making pesto in a food processor or blender is quick and easy! Gather of all your ingredients and let’s get started on this simple pesto recipe.
- Pulse: In a food processor or blender, pulse together fresh basil, pine nuts, and garlic about 5 to 7 times until finely chopped.
- Add the olive oil: Stream in olive oil while the machine is running, then scrape down the sides and pulse a few more times to blend.
- Pulse in the cheese: Add the cheese and pulse to incorporate.
- 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.
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.
My favorite way to use this pesto recipe is 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!). Some other ways to enjoy your fresh pesto include:
- Pesto Chicken Salad
- Open-faced veggie sandwiches
- Coating a fresh bowl of gnocchi
- Slathered on a slice of warm Italian bread
- Drizzled over a Caprese salad
Storing, Shelf-Life, and Freezing Pesto
- Storing: Keep refrigerated in an airtight container.
- Shelf-Life: It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week in a covered container or you can freeze it for up to 6 months.
- Freezing: If you’re really in over your head in basil production, be sure to freeze that pesto to get you through the winter! The best method for freezing is to pour the sauce into ice cube trays and freeze. The transfer the pesto cubes to a freezer-safe ziplock or container and use them as needed.
Fresh Summer Recipes to Make Next
- Tomato Mozzarella Tart
- Creamy Tomato-Basil Soup
- Tortellini in Parmesan Cream Sauce with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Spinach
- Sun-Dried Tomato Dip
Savor all the flavors of summer with this fresh and easy pesto recipe. Made with 5 simple ingredients and ready in 5 minutes you will be making this classic Italian recipe all summer long!
If you make this recipe and love it, remember to stop back and give it a 5-star rating – it helps others find the recipe! ❤️️
- 2 cups (48 g) fresh basil leaves
- ⅓ cup (39 g) pine nuts
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup (108 ml) olive oil
- ½ cup (50 g) Parmesan cheese
- In a food processor or blender, pulse together the basil, pine nuts and garlic 5 to 7 times, until finely chopped.
- 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.
- Serve immediately or store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- 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.
Did you make this recipe?
Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!
Photography by Ari Laing
A healthy and delicious food, I will make it!
This looks so good, you’ve made me hungry!
Can you double this recipe?
What actually constitutes 2 cups of basil? I have tried to make it several times from other recipes but don’t say if it should be packed and how much, or give a weight such as 1 oz.
Italian recipes for pesto almost always have some lemon zest and 1-2 teaspoons of lemon juice. It’s a nice addition. Otherwise your recipe is good. We like stinky pecorino cheeses and sometimes add Asiago to the Romano. Pesto made from fresh garden parsley is delicious as well. And yes, walnuts are a great addition. We’ve seen cashews added too.
Mille grazie per le sue ricette.
Minneapolis, MN here.
This looks really wonderful. I do think spaghetti squash is a great option for enjoying traditional noodle dishes on a grain-free diet. Thanks for posting this on Food Flicks Friday.
Can you make the pesto without the pine nuts? I’m allergic to nuts and need an allergy friendly version. Thanks!
I’ve substituted walnuts, but I’ve never made it without nuts at all. You might try looking up nut-free pesto. Although, as an aside, I just had a conversation with my son’s allergist last week regarding pine nuts, because he has never been skin tested for them and they are not included in any blood work (spanning 3 different allergists!) and he said that’s because pine nuts are NOT ACTUAL NUTS; they’re seeds. I was like, what?! Mind blown. Totally thought they were nuts. So, maybe something to ask your doctor? Obviously, I wouldn’t advise you to eat something you might possibly be allergic to without discussing with your doctor first :)
Pesto is wonderful on green beans, too.
How do you measure the basil? Lightly packed or really firmly packed? thanks
I pack it in pretty firmly.
I always have pesto in my fridge. It’s so versatile, can make a super quick veggie pasta w mushrooms or zucchini or both. Will look forward to trying to make this homemade version…need a little food processor first though😊 will probably use walnuts..I dont really like pine nuts a whole lot and wouldn’t want any extras laying around after I made the pesto lol..plus their crazy expensive.
I make a great dip with pesto, a big handful of fresh spinach and cream cheese, it’s delicious! Also I use half pine nuts half cashews to cut down on the cost, no one notices the difference!
3 things I just learned in the Pesto region in Italy:
1. Use the small leaf fresh basil as it has the best flavor.
2. When using pesto on pasta, drop a raw cut potato in with the pasta to cook. When pasta is done, remove the potato cubes and mash them into the pesto before tossing in the pasta. It gives it body and creaminess.
3. When pasta is almost done, toss in fresh green beans. These are served tossed with the pasta and pesto.
I was told that this is how Nonna does it.
I love pesto with anything; crusty bread open faced sandwiches, pizzas, salads, burritos and now I’m crazy about lettuce wraps with grilled chicken or fl, shrimps, flank steak or salmon with avocado, red onions, bell peppers, grilled tomatoes, grilled portabello, any combination will do you can make it spicy by adding jalapeño and of course pesto!
I absolutely love pesto. One of my favourites. But I end buying from the store.. This looks incredibly delicious. shall try soon.. ❤️
I used the ingredients I had on hand by substituting cilantro for basil, mixture of walnuts and almond and combinations of 5 cheeses for Romano.,.came out very tasty!
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!
Made it! But with pistachios instead of walnuts, because I was out. It turned out surprisingly yummy!
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!
Pesto is one of my favorite summer treats as well. I plan on making some this week :)
I’m with you on the walnuts, much cheaper than pine nuts, and I really enjoy the texture they give to pesto. Looks delicious
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.
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!!!
I love pesto in the summer… Especially slathered on a nice piece of crusty bread! I, too, often make mine with walnuts!
Like you, I use walnuts in my pesto!
This pesto quiche is one of my favorites!! http://www.thesweetslife.com/2011/03/pesto-quiche-with-oatmeal-crust.html
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!
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.
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!!
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 :)
have never tried it but looks, well, green
Pesto is probably the best thing since peanut butter xo
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.
This recipe looks awesome! I have never tried it with the walnuts before!!! Always down to try something NEW! :)
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.
Pesto looks wonderful! Love it!
Good timing – I’m planning on making pesto this week!
This sounds delicious and actually, like something I could make :) WEE!
Your pesto looks so good. You gave me ideas on dipping things in. Makes me want to eat it now. Focaccia?
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?
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!
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!
You’re very welcome! Enjoy :)
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!
My basil plant is HUGE! I have been wanting to try making my own pesto and now I have the perfect recipe! Thanks!!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
I have never made it with pecans, but I bet they would be great too!
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.
That grilled cheese sounds DELICIOUS! Totally making that!
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)
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.
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!
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?!
I love pesto! This sounds wonderful.
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!!!!
I love pesto on just about anything! Esp on a sandwich with mozz and tomatoes!
I like your pesto! As you say it’s not the traditional one, but i love the idea of walnuts in it!!
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.
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…
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!
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!
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.