Fresh Basil Pesto

The other day I was wandering through the produce section at our local market and stumbled upon “live basil” it was gorgeous and the scent was simply intoxicating. I immediately tossed two into my cart and thought they’d be the perfect replacement for the three basil plants that I have already managed to kill this summer. Most plants meet an early demise when under my care, but that hasn’t stopped me from planting them year after year.

I got home, put away the groceries and managed to drag a bag of potting soil through the house and onto the back deck – leaving a nice trail of dirt across the kitchen tile and living room carpet. Why didn’t I take it around the house? That would be because it’s hot and I’m lazy; therefore, I’m not all about the outdoors right now – or ever really. So I cleaned up the mess and headed out back clad in a nasty apron, gardening gloves and toting a mini shovel.

I successfully got the dirt into the pot without issue, dug a little hole and removed the “live basil” plant from its containerto read the following bold message:“Not recommended for planting.” And there you have it, folks – a typical moment in my home. In my defense, the market does sell fresh herbs for planting – these just weren’t those plants.

Moral of the story: When life hands you two huge basil plants that aren’t recommended for planting – make basil pesto and lots of it. Oh, and words in bold usually indicate something important.

This basil pesto recipe is loaded with bold flavors and tastes stellar with a loaf of fresh, crusty bread. It’s also pretty fab as a pasta sauce, a spread for sandwiches and a topping for roasted vegetables.

More Pesto Goodness:

Tomato Basil Dip from i am mommy
Pressed Sandwiches from Simple Bites
Almond Herb Tarts with Dandelion Pesto from Roost
Garlic Scape Pesto and Mushroom Pizza from My Kitchen Addition

Fresh Basil Pesto

Yield: about 1 ½ cups


3 cups packed fresh basil
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted until golden and cooled
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste


In a food processor or blender, combine basil and about 2 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil, blend into a paste. Add pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


- Basil Pesto can be made up to three days in advance. Refrigerate it in a sealed container.
- If you cannot find pine nuts, you can substitute them with a variety of other items such as walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, or pistachios.
- If you prefer your basil pesto to be a little thinner, simple drizzle in more olive oil until you reach the desired consistency.
- If you are unsure how to toast the pine nuts, check out this guide on How to Toast Nuts.

45 Responses to “Fresh Basil Pesto”

  1. Sara Cate — July 22, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Ok, I LOVE this story – so honest. I too have somehow overlooked important instructions because I am so set on an idea, only later to find out I totally missed the boat. So, you’re in good company – and soon I’ll be in good company with some delicious food thanks to a great recipe for some fresh pesto pasta – YUM!


    • Jamie — July 23, 2011 at 8:22 am

      I’m glad to know that I am in good company!

  2. Rosa — July 22, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Mmmhhh, lovely! There is nothing better than homemade pesto. Yours looks wonderful.

    Great clicks too!




  3. Notyet100 — July 22, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    :) luved ur clicks


  4. JeninWA — July 22, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    I plant those all the time! I also cut the tops off, root them in water, and plant those. I’ve turned a single live basil plant into 5 or 6 several times…just do it!


    • Jamie — July 23, 2011 at 8:23 am

      Thanks for the info, Jen!

  5. Maris (In Good taste) — July 22, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    I have never had homemade pesto but now I really want it!


  6. cindy — July 22, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Did you know you can freeze basil pesto?!? Just put it into a freezer container that has a lid, add a thin layer of olive oil on the top, put it in your freezer… Freezes wonderfully, and when you thaw it in the winter, you will love yourself all over again for making it up!


    • Jamie — July 23, 2011 at 8:23 am

      Great tip, Cindy! Thanks for sharing.

    • Maria — July 24, 2011 at 1:42 pm

      The only thing to remember when freezing pesto is that you should leave the cheese out until you’re ready to use and have defrosted. Cheese shouldn’t be frozen. Otherwise, I love pesto too! Other cheese to try in this – Parrano. It’s a mix of Parmesan and Romano in one lovely very hard cheese. I’m not a huge Parmesan fan but Parrano is a great substitute.

    • Dana — August 16, 2013 at 8:30 pm

      I’ve been cooking since. never mind for a little while. an i love pesto’s. thanks for the advice. homemade paste with homemade pesto. i need a baguette an some wine, an salad.

    • Jamie — August 19, 2013 at 10:50 am


      Homemade is the only way to go when it comes to pesto! Thank you so much for following MBA and have a wonderful day!


    • Sue Elmzen — July 30, 2017 at 4:10 pm

      Maria, you can Freeze cheese and I’ve frozen the Pesto with the cheese and it came out just fine

  7. Maureen — July 23, 2011 at 12:15 am

    I love it when I’m not the only one who does things like this. The pesto looks amazing.


  8. Ann — July 23, 2011 at 12:22 am

    I love home-made pesto – there is nothing like it. Your pictures are amazing!


    • Jamie — July 23, 2011 at 8:24 am

      You are so sweet, thank you so much!

  9. This sounds amazing! I love trying new pesto recipes. Thanks!


  10. KaTrina — July 23, 2011 at 1:38 am

    It will keep MUCH longer than that in the fridge as long as there is a layer of olive oil on top.


    • Jamie — July 23, 2011 at 8:24 am

      Thanks for the tip, Katrina!

  11. Savorique — July 23, 2011 at 7:13 am

    The best raw sauce in the world! So simple and quick to make.
    Thanks @JeninWA for the tip on our to build a sustainable basil supply!


  12. Tara @ The Butter Dish — July 23, 2011 at 7:35 am

    LOLOLOL I couldn’t help but laugh at this post; you just described me to a T (whatever the T stands for, I really never knew)

    I can not TELL you how many times I have dragged the soil through my house because I did not want to walk it all the way around the back of the house.

    And yes, I actually planted those store bought plants THREE times before I saw the little “warning label”.

    Luckily I got some from a garden center and with Bonnies Plant food my basil THRIVED. Until we went on a 9 days vacation and it died.


    Love love the story and will definitely be making this recipe.
    Have I mentioned I completely ADORE your blog?



    • Jamie — July 23, 2011 at 8:26 am

      I am so glad that I am not alone with all my randomness! Thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind words!

  13. angela@spinachtiger — July 23, 2011 at 9:23 am

    We love to have fresh basil in summer. I haven’t had luck doing basil in pots, but we pluck it right into the dirt in the backyard in our make shift garden next to the tomatoes (gives them a great flavor) and voila, we get more basil than we know what to do with. I do water the garden frequently as it is very hot here in Nashville. But maybe doing pots is the reason for failure. I’m not sure why they like the ground most. We just made some recently with walnuts because the price of pine nuts is around $25 a pound right now. Another trick I learned from Marcella Hazan is to add a tablespoon of soft butter at the end. The pesto gets super creamy.


  14. Mrs. Jen B — July 23, 2011 at 10:03 am

    I looooove pesto! I have managed to kill my plants this year, though – it just wasn’t meant to be, I guess. But there’s always next year…! :)


  15. gloria carter — July 23, 2011 at 10:24 am

    I live in south alabama and have really good luck planting the basil from seeds. I grow it in the holes of cinder blocks around the peremiter of my garden. I can plant 4 blocks from one packet of seed. It just goes wild and the pesto is wonderful. I like walnuts better than pine nuts and I agree with the olive oil on top….it freezes wonderfully. I also expermined with freezing the leaves this year. I washed and spin dried them……then sprayed them with my misto with olive oil, layed them out flat on a cookie sheet lined with parchment and froze in a single layer…..when frozen layer them in a tupperware bowl and refreez. They came out great. Pesto is such a wonderful little joy in life!


  16. Lynne @ 365 Days of Baking — July 23, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    I just made basil pesto last week and I used the basil from the plant that I haven’t killed. Which is quite surprising considering I have no green thumb. So delicious and it’s so wonderful when you can use the freshest ingredients.
    Love the pictures, Jamie!


  17. Jenelle — July 23, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    I just found your blog and love it! The photography is beautiful and all your recipes are intoxicating! Pesto is one of my favorite sauces as you can make so many versions of it based on your mood. My favorite is one I made with cilantro and cashews.


  18. Pam — July 24, 2011 at 11:48 am

    I adore pesto. The pine nuts is an interesting addition. I was just thinking about a pesto pasta dish, and lo and behold, here is your recipe. Thanks.


  19. The Healthy Apple — July 24, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    I love making basil pesto; it’s one of my favorite things to make and use for the week on salads, omelets and grilled veggies. Lovely recipe!


  20. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — July 24, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    Nothing beats freshly made pesto slathered on a nice slice of bread. Yum!


  21. Kristen — July 25, 2011 at 1:52 am

    Too funny – I just got intrigued by the same “live basil” at my market… only to find you can’t plant it!


  22. Rachel @ The Avid Appetite — July 25, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    I love basil! I keep harvesting some to make pesto, and then never get around to it and the basil dries out. Such a bummer. I need to make a commitment to my fresh basil that I will put it to good use this week :)


  23. Jen of My Tiny Oven — July 25, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    I just made pesto yesterday too! My basil plants were getting huge! I had never made it before, so simple and very tasty!


  24. Barbara | Creative Culinary — July 25, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    I can’t imagine a rooted plant that can’t be planted…someone just wants you to keep buying those instead! My basil is taking off now but struggled a bit at first. Lots of water at first, then not so much…how’s that for guidelines? :)

    I love pesto but I do not love the price of pine nuts; they are out of control, so I’ve been using toasted walnuts instead and loving it.


  25. I love your homemade basil pesto.It looks very delicious. I simply love it in pasta with breaded chicken! Yummy! I guess I need to start planting Basil plants. :)


  26. kate @ pomelo sunshine — July 27, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    I made this recipe last night and it turned out wonderfully. Thank you for the great and easy-to-follow recipe!


  27. Jordan — November 28, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    I made this and it was a huge hit. We put this on french bread and added some spinach dip with it which really enhanced that dip. It’s got to be good on pizza or pasta dishes also.


  28. Samantha — June 18, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    Glad I saw this. I have Basil coming out my ears and I don’t want to freeze ALL of it. ;)


  29. Kate — October 18, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    I love pesto and have lots of home grown basil :) I need to finally try to make my own


  30. kate a — September 5, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    I made pesto tonight!! I added a squirt of lemon juice to mine and spread it on top of chicken and then put diced tomato on top of all of that and baked. Yum!! Love your blog!


    • Jamie — September 8, 2013 at 11:05 am


      That sounds delicious! I need to make it. Thank you so much for sharing and have a wonderful day!


  31. Julie — August 2, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    This is a great easy pesto recipe. Thanks so much!


  32. Caroline — June 12, 2015 at 1:36 am

    Amazing now i can do my very own pesto :-) Great for my party this weekend :-)


    • Jamie — June 14, 2015 at 5:48 pm

      I hope you get the chance to try it. Thanks for visiting.



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