Homemade Basil Pesto

by Eat Well with Lex

Learn how to make homemade basil pesto with this quick and easy recipe so you get deliciously creamy pesto every time. Use this versatile sauce on everything from pasta to sandwiches.

Want more green sauce recipes? Try my Creamy Avocado Cilantro Lime Sauce and Super Green Pasta Sauce next!

overhead view of saucer filled with pesto

Homemade basil pesto is a fresh savory, herby green sauce that’s delightfully refreshing and bright. Basil is in season June through September so it’s perfect for all your summer recipes. Use it as dip, sauce, or spread; however you choose to use it, it’s an instant meal upgrade!

Why This is the Best Basil Pesto Recipe

  • Easy to Prepare. Simply combine your ingredients and use it however you’d like. This sauce is ready in less than 10 minutes!
  • Super Versatile. There are so many ways to enjoy pesto. Add it to your favorite recipes for added flavor!
  • Better Than Storebought. Put down that jar of pesto at the grocery store because homemade basil has a better taste and texture.
homemade basil pesto in a food processor

What is Pesto?

Pesto is a bright green sauce that originated in Genoa, Italy. Traditional pesto is made with fresh basil, pine nuts, olive oil, salt, and parmesan cheese. The term pesto references the act of “crushing.” This may allude to the fact that classic Italian pesto sauce is made using a mortar and pestle to crush the ingredients.

Basil Pesto Ingredients

  • Fresh basil: Tightly packed.
  • Pine nuts: This adds a nutty flavor.
  • Parmesan cheese: This imparts flavor but also acts as a binding ingredient. Use it grated.
  • Fresh Garlic: Lightly roast garlic cloves before adding them to the processor. It mellows the flavor and is less bitter than raw garlic.
  • Lemon juice: This adds a pop of citrus flavor and enhances the other flavors.
  • Extra virgin olive oil: This smooths and enriches the sauce.
  • Seasoning: Simply season with salt and black pepper.

How to Make Basil Pesto

To a heated skillet, add the pine nuts and garlic cloves. Toast them over medium heat for 1-3 minutes. 

To a food processor, add the basil, toasted pine nuts and garlic cloves, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Process until the basil is finely chopped and turns into a paste. 

overhead view of basil pesto ingredients in a food processor before blending

Lower the speed of the food processor and slowly pour in the olive oil.  Process some more until smooth.

Pro Tips

  • When selecting fresh basil at the grocery store or farmers market, the color should be vibrant and the leaves should be free of spots and not wilted.
  • Wash and dry the basil leaves (removing stems too) before adding them to the food processor.
  • If you have some time, try blanching the basil before blending it. The final result is a creamier sauce.

Recipe Substitutes and Variations

  • Pine Nuts: Pine nuts can be pricy. For a more affordable and accessible nut, try pistachios, almonds, or walnuts as substitutes.
  • Green Veggies and Fresh Herbs: Don’t like the taste of basil? Try baby spinach, arugula, or kale instead. You can also do a mixture. I’ve seen variations with cilantro or parsley as alternatives as well.
  • Cheese: If parmesan isn’t your thing, swap it for another hard, salty Italian-style cheese, like Romano, pecorino, or Asiago.
  • Vegan Basil Pesto: Omit the cheese for a dairy-free pesto.
  • Spicy: Add red peppers or jalapenos for a kick of heat.
  • Homemade Basil Pesto Without Food Processor: Do it the old-fashioned way with a mortar and pestle. Continuously pound and grind until you reach the desired consistency.

What to Do With Pesto

  • Pasta: This is the go-to recipe for using pesto. Toss the sauce with your favorite variety.
  • Pizza: Bored with marinara sauce? Swap it for homemade basil pesto!
  • Bread: Spread it over bread and make a flavorful sandwich or panini.
  • Protein: Apply it to raw chicken or fish to season and tenderize the protein.
  • Veggies: Jazz up a side of steamed vegetables.
  • Salad: Use it as a dressing on your favorite bed of greens.

Can Basil Pesto Be Made Ahead?

Absolutely. See below for storage instructions.

Storing Leftovers

Store leftover basil pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Common Questions

How do I prevent my basil pesto from turning brown?

The lemon in this recipe helps to prevent browning. To preserve leftovers, you can add a bit of olive oil to the surface. Alternatively, cover the sauce with plastic wrap before closing the container tightly with a lid. These measures will maintain the vibrant green color for longer.

Can you freeze basil pesto?

Yes. Store pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 months.

Is homemade basil pesto good for you?

Pesto is healthy to eat in moderation. Basil is packed with antioxidants and vitamin K. Homemade basil is a more nutritious option than storebought varities because it is not filled with preservatives and has far less sodium.

overhead view of saucer filled with pesto

More Saucy Recipes:

Hidden Vegetable Pasta Sauce

Sweet Chili Jerk Wings

Creamy Tuscan Chicken (Marry Me)

DID YOU MAKE THE BEST PESTO RECIPE?

Leave a star rating and comment below to let us know your thoughts. You can also share the recipe on Instagram and tag @eatwell.withlex.

overhead view of saucer filled with pesto

Homemade Basil Pesto

Learn how to make homemade basil pesto with this quick and easy recipe so you get deliciously creamy pesto every time. Use this versatile sauce on everything from pasta to sandwiches.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Course Sauce
Cuisine Italian
Servings 1 cup

Ingredients
  

  • 1 1/2 cups Fresh basil tightly packed
  • 1/3 cup Pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese grated
  • 2 Garlic
  • 2 tbsp Lemon juice about 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup Extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Black pepper

Instructions
 

  • To a heated skillet, add the pine nuts and garlic cloves. Toast them over medium heat for 1-3 minutes.
  • To a food processor, add the basil, toasted pine nuts and garlic cloves, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Process until the basil is finely chopped and turns into a paste.
  • Lower the speed of the food processor and slowly pour in the olive oil.  Process some more until smooth.
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?Share your creations on Instagram! Tag us @Eatwell.withlex and use #eatwellwithlex! Don’t forget to leave a star rating and comment.

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2 comments

Pesto Potato Salad | Eat Well With Lex June 5, 2023 - 1:07 pm

[…] Basil Pesto: This is the base of the flavor. Check out my pesto recipe to make your own, quickly and easily. I whip it up in just 5 minutes, using a food […]

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Chicken Pesto Lasagna Roll Ups | Eat Well With Lex August 15, 2023 - 2:35 am

[…] Basil Pesto Sauce: This homemade pesto sauce is a fresh savory, herby green sauce that’s delightfully refreshing and bright. It’s ready in just 10 minutes! […]

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