Add authentic Italian flavors to any dish with this Homemade Fresh Basil Pesto! Simple ingredients and just minutes to make!
Homemade Basil Pesto
When we moved into our new home a couple years ago, I took up gardening seriously for the first time. What I found easiest to grow right away (and keep alive) were fresh herbs. Cilantro, green onions, rosemary, oregano, parsley, mint and basil all thrived in my new garden!
Then came the question of what to do with all those herbs! Of course I add to salads and such, but there was still so much leftover! My husband makes an amazing chimichurri sauce, which is cilantro-based. And when it comes to fresh basil, homemade pesto sauce is perfect for using all those bushels!
If you have a bountiful harvest of fresh basil from your garden, you’ve got to try this delicious basil pesto recipe! It’s so easy to make and takes just five minutes of prep work! You don’t need to dirty a bunch of dishes — a blender or food processor is all you need!
What Does Pesto Taste Like?
Originating from Genoa, Italy, Pesto hits all the notes on the palette! Basil brings a rich, herbaceous flavor that is balanced by sweet and nutty pine nuts, spicy garlic, and salty Parmesan cheese. When blended, the olive oil and cheese give it a smooth creamy texture that is actually quite luxurious!
Pesto pairs well with:
- Bread, crostini or toast
- Proteins, such as chicken or fish
- Roasted veggies
- Baked or mashed potatoes
There really is no “right” way to use pesto — think of it like any other condiment! Use it on anything you like or even use it as a dip!
It is important, however, to note that pesto should be served cold or at room temperature — do not cook pesto! Cooking pesto will change the consistency and color of the sauce.
Related: Try this homemade pesto with our Easy Caprese Dip recipe!
What is Pesto Made Of?
Traditional pesto ingredients include garlic, pine nuts, salt, fresh basil, and hard cheese (Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, for example). These ingredients are then puréed with olive oil to form a thick paste.
Some variations call for additional herbs and vegetables, such as spinach. However, our homemade pesto sticks to the traditional recipe, with simple fresh ingredients.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Fresh basil leaves — stems removed
- Toasted pine nuts
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Minced garlic
- Fresh squeezed lemon juice
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Coarse salt
- Black pepper
What Kind of Basil is Best?
The traditional choice would be Italian Large Leaf Basil, however, you really can use almost any variety! This makes it excellent for using up all that basil in your garden! Sweet basil is another popular choice.
The exception might be Thai Basil, which has a stronger anise flavor. You CAN use it, but keep in mind that the flavor may be a bit different than what you’re used to. Now, I personally LOVE Thai Basil and use it in almost everything. It also grows amazingly well here in Texas, with our hot and humid climate. It’s really a matter of preference!
But if you’re going for an authentic Italian pesto, I would recommend sticking with Italian basil varieties.
Is Pesto Vegan?
Because it contains cheese, pesto is not considered vegan. However, it could be considered vegetarian for those who do consume dairy.
Pesto is also gluten free and keto, with 1g total carbs per serving. And if you’re counting net carbs, it would be considered a net zero!
How to Make Homemade Basil Pesto
Add basil leaves, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic, and lemon juice to food processor.
Mix until the consistency is a smooth paste.
Slowly pour in the olive oil, blending as you incorporate the oil.
If you are using a blender that doesn’t have an opening on top to allow you to slow pour the oil in, stop the blender, add in a little bit of oil, start it back up, and continue the process until the oil is fully incorporated. Scrape the sides of the food processor each time to make sure everything is mixed evenly.
Add salt and pepper by the pinch, tasting until you have your desired flavor.
Store or enjoy right away with your favorite pasta, pizza, and more!
As noted earlier, be sure to serve pesto room temperature or chilled. DO NOT COOK. Cooking pesto will alter the flavor, consistency, and color.
How to Store Homemade Pesto
- In the Fridge — Store in an airtight jar or container. Since it is made with fresh ingredients and no added preservatives, homemade pesto should be used within a week if kept in the refrigerator.
- In the Freezer — Freezing pesto can extend its “shelf life” substantially, up to 6 months! To freeze, scoop pesto into silicone ice cube trays and place in freezer until solid. You can then pop the pesto cubes out of the tray and transfer to a freezer bag for long-term storage.
More Homemade Sauce & Seasoning Recipes
- Apple Pie Spice Mix
- Homemade Ranch Seasoning Mix
- Copycat KFC Seasoning
- Fresh Chimichurri Sauce
- Copycat Chick-Fil-A Honey Mustard
- KFC Brown Gravy
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Homemade Basil Pesto
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves packed, removed from stems
- 3 TBSP toasted pine nuts
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 TBSP garlic minced
- 3 tsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil + 2 TBSP extra
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- Add basil leaves, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic, and lemon juice to food processor.
- Pulse until pureéd and there are no large chunks.
- Slowly pour olive oil into blender as you mix. If you are using a blender that doesn’t have an opening on top, periodically stop the blender, add in a little bit of oil, start it back up, and continue to blend until the oil is fully incorporated and smooth.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
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