How to Make Basil Pesto

Learn How to Make Basil Pesto to add to your favorite soups, stews and pasta dishes.  Basil Pesto can turn the most basic recipe into something really special and crowd-pleasing.

Learn How to Make Basil Pesto to spread on sandwiches, stir into soups, sauces and stews, toss with vegetables and add to salad dressings

Basil pesto is a delicious and healthy sauce made with simple ingredients (fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and extra-virgin olive oil).  This is my go-to recipe.

Learn How to Make Basil Pesto to spread on sandwiches, stir into soups, sauces and stews, toss with vegetables and add to salad dressings

WHAT IS BASIL PESTO

Basil pesto is a delicious simple-to-make green sauce that can be spread on sandwiches, stirred into soups and stews, tossed with vegetables and added to salad dressings.  It’s also amazing drizzled on eggs (fried or scrambled).

What’s the difference between pesto and pistou?  Pesto originated in Italy, and pistou (also a garlicky basil sauce) originated from the south of France.  Pistou looks like pesto, but the main difference between the two is that there are no pine nuts added when making pistou.  

BASIL PESTO SAUCE RECIPE

This basil pesto recipe uses fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.  A lot of pesto recipes call for Parmigiano-Reggiano, but I use Parmesan because I personally like the flavor of it better.  

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 tablespoons pine nuts (or almonds, walnuts, cashews or pistachios) (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper
  • 2/3 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (depending on your desired consistency – use 1/2 cup for a thinner consistency)

VARIATIONS

  • Instead of basil, use kale, spinach, arugula, parsley or cilantro

HOW TO MAKE BASIL PESTO

Toast Nuts – heat a frying pan over medium low heat.  Toast the pine nuts until lightly golden shaking the pan frequently to prevent burning.  

Mince Garlic – peel and mince 2 cloves garlic.  My son loves his pesto garlicky so he adds 3 cloves to his pesto.

Grate Cheese – Finely grate the cheese.  I use a fine grater typically used for Parmesan cheese, rather than a box grater, so there are no larger pieces of cheese that might remain in the pesto.

Prep Basil – remove the thick ends of the stems and discard using only the leaves and finer stems.  Add the basil, garlic and nuts to a food processor (or blender if you don’t have a processor) and process until finely chopped.

Add Olive Oil and Cheese– while processor is still running, pour olive oil in a stead stream through the feed tube. Turn the processor off and remove the lid to add your cheese.  Pulse a few times to incorporate the cheese into the sauce.

Learn How to Make Basil Pesto to spread on sandwiches, stir into soups, sauces and stews, toss with vegetables and add to salad dressings

HOW LONG WILL PESTO LAST

Store pesto in a sealed jar.  Drizzle about 1-1/2 teaspoons of olive oil on the top to prevent the pesto from browning. Pesto can keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

CAN YOU FREEZE PESTO

Yep…you sure can.  Freezing pesto is easy.  I do all the time.  Pesto is something I use a lot of and having these frozen pesto ice cubes  on hand saves me when I don’t have any fresh basil on hand to make fresh pesto with. 

HOW TO USE PESTO

Pesto uses are endless really.  It can be spread on sandwiches, stirred into soups, sauces and stews, tossed with vegetables and added to salad dressings.  It’s also amazing drizzled on eggs (fried or scrambled).  And of course, tossed with noodles!

Learn How to Make Basil Pesto to spread on sandwiches, stir into soups, sauces and stews, toss with vegetables and add to salad dressings

HOW TO KEEP BASIL FRESH

To keep basil fresh, just trim the stems and place them in a glass of water (like flowers) and leave them either on the counter or refrigerator.

HOW TO STORE FRESH BASIL

There’s three methods for storing fresh basil.  

  1.  Trim the stems and place the basil in a glass of water with a plastic bag covering the leaves. Store either on the countertop or the refrigerator if you have the space.
  2. Pick the basil leaves off the stems and lay them flat on a paper towel.  Roll the paper towel up and put in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator.
  3. Pick the basil leaves off the stems and place in a freezer storage bag and lay flat in the freezer until the leaves are frozen.  You can also quickly blanch the leaves and then bunch them up in ice cube tray compartments and freeze them into cubes.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF BASIL LEAVES

Basil is an aromatic herb in the mint family (along with oregano and rosemary).  Basil contains antioxidant-rich volatile essential oils that provide immune-boosting benefits.  

Learn How to Make Basil Pesto to spread on sandwiches, stir into soups, sauces and stews, toss with vegetables and add to salad dressings

RECIPES USING PESTO

Learn How to Make Basil Pesto to spread on sandwiches, stir into soups, sauces and stews, toss with vegetables and add to salad dressings
Yield: 6-8 Servings

How to Make Basil Pesto

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes

Learn How to Make Basil Pesto to spread on sandwiches, stir into soups, sauces and stews, toss with vegetables and add to salad dressings.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 tablespoons pine nuts (or almonds, walnuts, cashews or pistachios) (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper
  • 2/3 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (depending on your desired consistency - use 1/2 cup for a thinner consistency)

Instructions

  1. Combine the basil leaves, garlic and pine nuts in a blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse until the leaves are minced finely.
  2. Add the olive oil and pulse to blend, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. Turn processor off and remove the lid to add the cheese. Secure the lid and pulse to incorporate the cheese into the pesto.

Notes

To Store: Drizzle a thin layer of olive oil over the top to keep from turning brown.

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