How to Make Fresh Basil Pesto

LAST UPDATED: Mar 30, 2020 | PUBLISHED: Mar 26, 2020 | By: Julie Blanner

This homemade basil pesto sauce recipe is vibrant, full of flavor and so easy to make! It’s a great healthier alternative to store bought and it’s the perfect way to liven up so many dishes. Made in minutes with 4 ingredients.

Marble surface with a small clear jar of homemade pesto sauce.

It’s so quick and easy to make pesto that’s fresh and full of flavor, that I very rarely purchase store bought pesto.

Basil tends to go bad rather quickly when you buy it off the shelf. In fact, I usually like to use it the very same day that we buy because I know it’s not likely to last long!

Luckily, making fresh pesto is a great way to savor and enjoy it for weeks or months to come! Whether you have some left over from another dish or an abundance growing in your garden you want to enjoy all winter long, you can make homemade pesto to use in an array of delicious ways.

White surface, clear glass jar full of fresh cut basil stems.

This basil pesto recipe is perfect to use in my pesto chicken, pesto aioli and pesto pasta and SO much more! I have shared all of my favorite ways to use this fabulous pesto sauce below.

Next time you are planning your meals, why not try to skip buying the jarred stuff and make your own? It is so much more delicious, not to mention there’s no preservatives, additives or added salt.

You can mix up this basic pesto recipe in so many amazing ways. I’ve added my favorite variations below.

Marble surface with a small clear jar of homemade pesto recipe.

Ingredients To Make Pesto

  • Basil – Fresh basil leaves are the foundation for this sauce.
  • Pine Nuts – Add a mild, sweet and slightly buttery flavor. They are tender and high in fat and make the pesto really silky. You can substitute walnuts if you don’t have any pine nuts on hand.
  • Minced Garlic – No pesto is complete without garlic! Use fresh or minced garlic purchased in the produce section of your grocer for the best flavor.
  • Olive oil – Use a good quality olive oil, or extra virgin olive oil. It really enhances the flavor.

Optional Add Ins

  • Red Pepper Flakes – To add a little heat (and a hint of color).
  • Parmesan Cheese – Use freshly grated parmesan for the best flavor. To keep it vegan you can substitute parmesan with nutritional yeast.
  • Salt and Pepper – Freshly cracked and to taste.
  • Lemon – A squeeze of lemon juice adds a little zest.
Marble surface with a small clear jar of homemade basil pesto recipe.

How To Make Pesto Sauce

  1. Combine – Add the ingredients to a food processor or blender and process whilst slowly adding the olive oil. Process until smooth and combined. To do it the old fashioned way, use a mortar and pestle. It’s ever so slightly more flavorful, but you won’t notice the difference for the effort.
  2. Serve – Serve stirred into pasta or store in in the fridge of freezer.

Tips

To Store

  • Refrigerate – Transfer it to an airtight container. Add a layer of olive oil to help keep it fresh longer. Olive oil prevents the basil from coming in contact with air, preventing it from oxidizing. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  • Freeze – Pesto sauce freezes so well, I often make a big batch when I have leftover basil. Freeze it in an ice cube tray (or sheet pan) and then transfer to a freezer bag. Frozen pesto keeps well for up to 6 months. You can defrost the cubes in the fridge or stir the cubes directly into hot pasta.
Marble surface with a small clear jar of homemade pesto sauce.

Keep the Color – Simply blanche the basil prior to making to keep the basil pesto bright green. As it oxidizes, pesto darkens (which doesn’t phase me a bit!)

How to Keep Basil Fresh

To keep basil fresh until you’re ready to make pesto, trim the stems and place in a jar or vase filled with water in a sunny spot.

You can also place it in a bowl at room temperature and cover with a towel, or lightly roll basil into a towel.

Marble surface with a small clear jar of homemade basil pesto recipe.

How to Use Pesto

  • Gourmet Grilled Cheese
  • A Juicy Burger
  • Add to a Burger Bar
  • Toss with spaghetti to make Pesto PastaA white plate with basil pesto on fresh pasta.
  • Toss with rice
  • Use in lieu of pizza sauce
  • Toss with veggies
  • Swirl into mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower
  • Spread onto Crostini
  • Drizzle on eggs
  • Bake into artisan bread
  • Whisk into buttermilk to create a creamy pesto dressing
  • Top steak, chicken, fish or pork chops after prepared
  • Brush onto chicken just before baking to make pesto chicken
  • Toss with cooked shrimp
  • Garnish soup
  • In a quesadilla
  • Toss with popcorn
  • Make pesto dip spreading a layer on top of cream cheese and warming in the ovenHomemade basil pesto in an oval dish with crostini slices to the side.
  • Swirl into goat cheese (perfect for a spread or to enjoy on a chicken or steak sandwich)
  • Mix into sour cream to make a dip
  • Mix into guacamole
An oval platter with three chicken breasts covered in homemade basil pesto sauce.

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If you try this easy pesto recipe, please come back to share using my 5 star rating in the comments below! Not only do I appreciate it, but I know readers do, too!

Marble surface with a small clear jar of homemade basil pesto recipe.

Basil Pesto

This homemade basil pesto recipe is vibrant, full of flavor and so easy to make! It's a great healthier alternative to store bought and it's the perfect way to liven up so many dishes.
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Print Pin Rate
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 3 minutes
Servings (hover to scale): 4 servings
Calories: 278kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 cups basil fresh
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Optional

  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese fresh grated
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Add ingredients to a blender except the olive oil
  • Slowly drizzle in the olive oil as you blend the other ingredients

Video

Notes

To Store

  • Refrigerate – Transfer it to an airtight container. Add a layer of olive oil to help keep it fresh longer. Olive oil prevents the basil from coming in contact with air, preventing it from oxidizing. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  • Freeze – Pesto sauce freezes so well, I often make a big batch when I have leftover basil. Freeze it in an ice cube tray (or sheet pan) and then transfer to a freezer bag. Frozen pesto keeps well for up to 6 months. You can defrost the cubes in the fridge or stir the cubes directly into hot pasta.
To Retain the Color – Simply blanche the basil prior to making to keep the basil pesto bright green. As it oxidizes, pesto darkens (which doesn’t phase me a bit!)

Nutrition

Calories: 278kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 1mg | Potassium: 65mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 633IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 1mg
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