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Fresh Basil Pesto

This Fresh Basil Pesto is as bright and delicious as it gets. Try it on pasta, in a sandwich, or simply with a loaf of crusty bread. 

Small bowl of basil pesto surrounded by slices of baguette

‘Tis the season for planting our little garden around here. I usually kill everything – except mint, that stuff grows out of concrete! – but I still try for a small garden every year.

This year we have some tomatoes, cilantro, and basil. I always plant basil, even though the bugs usually get to it and the leaves end up full of holes. Not very pretty, but perfect for using for pesto.

Elle had never tried pesto before, but since she loves pasta I grabbed a fresh basil plant at Meijer (while we wait for ours in the garden to grow) and whipped up a batch of this homemade Fresh Basil Pesto for an easy pasta dinner.

WHAT IS BASIL PESTO?

Pesto – sometimes called pesto alla genovese – originated in Genoa, Italy. The traditional version of pesto uses a few simple ingredients:

  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Garlic
  • Pine nuts
  • Parmesan cheese or another hard cheese such as pecorino
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
Fresh basil leaves in the bowl of a food processor

You can find recipes for all sorts of different types of pesto that replace the basil with other herbs or greens or the pine nuts with other nuts, such as arugula pesto or basil and walnut pesto. But the basil and pine nut combo is a classic for a reason.

Basil is super fresh and bright. Paired with salty parmesan, buttery pine nuts, and earthy olive oil, it makes for such a perfect sauce.

Ingredients for fresh basil pesto in the bowl of a food processor

HOW TO MAKE THIS EASY PESTO

Fresh Basil Pesto is one of the easiest sauces you can possibly make. You don’t even cook it!

Grab your trust food processor or blender and add the basil leaves and a couple tablespoons of the olive oil. Blend this until a paste forms.

Add in the pine nuts, cheese, garlic, and the rest of the oil and pulse until it is smooth.

Give the pesto a taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Your pesto is ready to use or store for later!

Spatula stirring basil pesto in the bowl of a food processor

HOW TO USE FRESH BASIL PESTO

There are so many ways you can use your homemade pesto!

Of course you can toss it with freshly cooked pasta. Simply toss as much pesto as you like with the hot pasta and a bit of the pasta cooking water. You can even add in some grilled shrimp or any veggies you like.

Shallow white bowl filled with fresh basil pesto

You can even use this Fresh Basil Pesto in my Creamy Pesto Pasta with Shrimp!

Pesto also makes for a great spread on sandwiches, sauce on homemade pizza (try using 30-minute pizza crust!), or as a topping for roasted vegetables.

Or try serving it alongside Extra Virgin Olive Oil Dip with a loaf of crusty bread. It’s one of my favorite dips for fresh baguette!

Fresh basil pesto spread on top of a slice of baguette

CAN PESTO BE FROZEN?

Want to store your homemade pesto for later?

It’ll keep well in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, for up to 3 days. But I love freezing pesto for longer-term storage!

Glass jar filled with basil pesto on a cutting board

Pop your fresh pesto into the freezer-safe container of your choice and freeze for up to 3 months. You can even freeze it in an ice cube tray; just pop the cubes out once they’re frozen solid and store them in a zip-top freezer bag. Then you can take out and thaw as much or as little as you need! 

Having this pesto recipe up your sleeve will come in handy any time you find yourself with an excess of fresh basil.

Overhead view of slices of baguette and a bowl of basil pesto on a marble serving board
Small white bowl filled with basil pesto on a marble board surrounded by chunks of parmesan cheese and basil leaves

Fresh Basil Pesto

Yield: About 1 1/2 cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

This Fresh Basil Pesto is as bright and delicious as it gets. Try it on pasta, in a sandwich, or simply with a loaf of crusty bread. 

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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.

Notes

  • 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, simply 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.
Nutrition Information
Yield 12 Serving Size 2 tablespoons
Amount Per Serving Calories 170Total Fat 18gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 14gCholesterol 5mgSodium 126mgCarbohydrates 2gFiber 0gSugar 0gProtein 3g

Did you make this recipe?

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Evelyne

Saturday 10th of August 2019

After pouring out you freshly made batch of pesto, you can “rinse” the blender or food processor by adding in 2/3 c oil and 1/3 c white wine vinegar or lemon juice, add salt and pepper to taste.  Pulse the blender to get an awesome pesto vinaigrette that is amazing on a tomato/cucumber/avocado salad.  Good to the last drop!

Slso when basil is not available, pesto can be made with other herbs such as parsley, or leafs like baby kale, spinach.  Or a mixture of all, with or without basil. Why not add in some mint and or chives!

Jamie

Sunday 11th of August 2019

Thanks so much for stopping by, Evelyne! I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Happy Baking! -Jamie

Caroline

Friday 12th of June 2015

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

Jamie

Sunday 14th of June 2015

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

-Jamie

Julie

Saturday 2nd of August 2014

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

kate a

Thursday 5th of September 2013

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

Sunday 8th of September 2013

Kate,

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

Jamie

Easy & Delicious Pesto Pasta Salad For Summer | integrations

Thursday 11th of July 2013

[...] 1 jar pesto*  (per 1lb of pasta) or you could certainly make your own fresh pesto with this recipe 1 cup sweet pearl tomatoes (cut in 1/2 or if larger slice in 1/4ths) 1 small sweet maui onion [...]

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