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Fresh Basil Pesto

This Fresh Basil Pesto has only 5 ingredients and you can make it in under 10 minutes! It has all of the classic qualities you know and love about pesto – fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, rich parmesan cheese, and garlic.

Classic Homemade Pesto Recipe

We love fresh basil. And with that comes an even deeper love for fresh pesto. So, first things first. Let’s stop buying premade pesto and make this Fresh Basil Pesto, instead!

We promise it’s not hard! This is actually one of the more simple ways to preserve a delicious fresh herb and make it into a one-of-a-kind sauce. The ingredients are so simple (there are only 5!). Plus, you’ll only need 10 minutes to make this recipe. It’s a win-win!

What we love most about pesto is that we can use it in so many different ways. Sometimes, we just serve it with a side of crackers or spread it on bread (it’s THAT good!). Some more popular ways of using it are on top of pasta and chicken.

pesto in a white bowl with a metal spoon

What Is Pesto?

Pesto is a simple Italian sauce. It’s always uncooked (which makes it even easier to make!) and generally has the same types of ingredients.

Generally, it’s a fresh herb (most commonly basil), nuts, garlic, a hard cheese, and olive oil. It’s all blended together to make a sauce. Some may even skip the blender or food processor and do it by hand with a mortar and pestol.

Sometimes, you’ll see other herbs being used like mint or parsley. You can even use other nuts like walnuts or almonds. But, for today, we’re working with the tried and true classic – Basil Pesto.

close up of fresh basil pesto

What Does Pesto Taste Like?

Pesto packs in a ton of different flavors! The basil has a fresh and slightly sweet taste to it which is then cut by the salty and earthy pine nuts. Adding parmesan cheese adds a little more salt flavor while also mellowing out the bitterness from the fresh herbs.

Finally, it has a ton of garlic flavor! There can never be enough garlic! And because it’s fresh, it’s very strong. The olive oil also adds a little fatty and buttery flavor to the sauce.

all of the ingredients you need to make fresh pesto like basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, pinenuts, and olive oil in seperate prep dishes

Recipe Ingredients

Here is everything that you need to make Fresh Basil Pesto. Remember to check the recipe card for the exact amounts.

  • Fresh Basil: Always use fresh herbs for this recipe! You can try a blend of herbs if you do not have enough basil. For example, add half parsley to the mix.
  • Pine Nuts: Pine nuts add a level of flavor here that can’t be duplicated by other nuts. But, they can be a little expensive. Again, you can compensate here and do half and half with another nut (like almonds or walnuts).
  • Parmesan Cheese: We like to buy high-quality cheese for this recipe. It’s best to buy the block and shred it yourself.
  • Garlic: Always fresh. Please don’t use dried garlic or garlic powder for this recipe. It will not have the same incredible flavor.
  • Olive Oil: Any type of olive oil will work.
  • Salt and Pepper

How to Make Fresh Pesto

Here’s how to make this simple recipe! All you need is a food processor. You can also use a blender, but you will need to be very careful not to puree your pesto, just gently pulse. If you puree your ingredients in the blender, it will turn into soup!

First, add the basil and pine nuts to the food processor. These ingredients will be chopped up first so that they get chopped very fine.

Then, add the cheese and the garlic. Pulse a few times so that they blend in with the other ingredients.

Add the olive oil. Next, gradually add the olive oil on slow speed until you get a smooth consistency.

Season with salt and pepper. Then serve it immediately or store it for another time.

Tips for Success

Making pesto at home is really simple as you can see in this recipe. Here are a few helpful tips to make sure that it always turns out perfectly.

  • Always use fresh ingredients. And when we say fresh, we mean do not use dried herbs or spices. Using the best fresh ingredients will make a world of a difference when you make this pesto!
  • Use toasted pine nuts. You may find that pine nuts are already toasted. If they aren’t, toasting them will add even more flavor to the pesto. The easiest way to toast pine nuts is to warm them in a skillet over medium heat for a couple minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Don’t process the pesto too much. If you blend up the basil leaves too much they will become bitter. This is why some people opt to do it by hand (but it obviously takes longer). Also, if you blend it too much, it won’t have the correct texture anymore.
fresh basil pesto in a white bowl with basil leaves and pine nuts scattered next to it

Ways to Use Pesto

There are so many different ways to enjoy fresh pesto! (Does eating it with a spoon count?!)

  • It pairs perfectly with chicken. In fact, our Pesto Chicken and Pesto Chicken Caprese are both great recipe to try! It’s also very quick and simple. It’s also wonderful on top of our favorite Grilled Chicken Breasts!
  • Add it to pasta. You can use this as a pasta sauce for any type of pasta.
  • Spread it on fresh bread. It’s the most delicious and decadent snack – fresh pesto spread on a toasted baguette. Yum!
  • Use it as a drizzle. These flavors go great with many different vegetables like roasted sweet potatoes, carrots, and even tomatoes.
pesto in a white bowl with a metal spoon

Storing Pesto

This pesto recipe is a great make-ahead sauce. We love to make big batches and throw them in the freezer.

  • Fridge: Store the pesto in an air-tight container for up to 5 days in the fridge. We like to use mason jars. To prevent the basil from browning, you can pour a thin layer of olive oil on top of the pesto (in the jar) and it acts as a natural seal.
  • Freezer: Don’t put the cheese in (yet) if you want to freeze pesto. We use an ice cube tray to freeze small amounts. Line it with plastic and drop a small amount into each cube. Freeze and then when they are frozen, pop them out and throw them into a plastic bag. Then, when you’re ready to eat, add the cheese after you’ve thawed the pesto.
Yield: 1 cup

Fresh Basil Pesto

close up of fresh basil pesto

Making homemade Fresh Basil Pesto is so simple. You just need 5 ingredients - basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan, and olive oil. You can make it in under 10 minutes!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Add the basil and pine nuts to the food processor and pulse until blended. 
  2. Next add the parmesan cheese and garlic. Pulse a few times to blend well.
  3. Add the olive oil while the food processor is going on low speed. Blend until smooth.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. 
  5. Use as desired or store in an air-tight container, in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days.

Notes

Storage:

  • Fridge: Store the pesto in an air-tight container for up to 5 days in the fridge. We like to use mason jars. To prevent the basil from browning, you can pour a thin layer of olive oil on top of the pesto (in the jar) and it acts as a natural seal.
  • Freezer: Don't put the cheese in (yet) if you want to freeze pesto. We use an ice cube tray to freeze small amounts. Line it with plastic and drop a small amount into each cube. Freeze and then when they are frozen, pop them out and throw them into a plastic bag. Then, when you're ready to eat, add the cheese after you've thawed the pesto.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 342Total Fat: 36gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 28gCholesterol: 7mgSodium: 245mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 5g

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