Making homemade pesto is easy! You just need a handful of ingredients and a food processor. It tastes so much better than the store-bought variety.
What is pesto sauce?
Pesto is a classic Italian sauce with basil that's an amazing condiment to have on hand since it's so versatile. Use it with pasta, potatoes, grilled veggies, and even for dipping bread or as a sandwich spread. It's not hard to make, but it'll only be as tasty as your base ingredients are. Use good quality ingredients for the best pesto sauce!
Your grandparents might have made it the traditional way with a pestle and mortar, but here we're using a food processor to make it simple and save time. Technically, this specific pesto variety is called pesto alla genovese since it originated in Genoa, Italy. Now you know!
Looking for a twist on classic pesto? Try this avocado pesto.
Ingredients for pesto sauce
- Basil - fresh basil is the hallmark of any pesto. It's one of the best ways to use up basil from the garden. Use Italian basil (sweet basil)
- Pine nuts - they taste buttery, soft, and nutty. Pine nuts give pesto sauce its distinctive flavor. Walnuts will work in a pinch but won't be exactly the same.
- Parmesan cheese - the cheese that's normally used in pesto
- Garlic - another essential component to pesto. I like to use three cloves to really amp up the flavor. You could even use roasted garlic!
- Olive oil - you're going to want to use a good quality olive oil to blend all the ingredients together since it's a central component in this sauce
- Salt & pepper - it's very important to season pesto adequately
What kind of cheese to use in pesto sauce?
- Typically parmesan is used in homemade pesto, but you can also use pecorino or Grana Padano since they're fairly similar to parmesan.
- You're going to want to grate the cheese yourself since the pre-grated kind just doesn't taste as good!
- Quickly toasting the pine nuts enhances their nutty flavor even more! Toast them until gently golden, and then let them cool down before making the pesto.
- I recommend adjusting ingredient quantities to customize the pesto to your needs. Want more garlic? Go ahead and add in more. Want more oil? Drizzle it in. Red pepper flakes for a bit of spice? Why not. You really can't go wrong making pesto from scratch.
- If you want to brighten it up even more, add a little fresh lemon juice to this pesto.
Leftovers and storage
- Pesto will keep in your fridge for a week in an airtight container. I just use a mason jar.
- Can you freeze pesto sauce? Absolutely. It's one of those sauces that freezes well! Homemade pesto will taste fresh even after thawing, so I love to keep a supply in my freezer. My favorite hack is to use an ice cube tray to freeze pesto portions individually and tossing them in a freezer bag.
Did you make this easy basil pesto recipe? Are you ditching store-bought pesto forever? Let me know in the comments below!
How to Make Pesto Sauce
- 1 cup (tightly packed) basil
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 2-3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- If you wish to toast the pine nuts, add them to a skillet over medium-high heat, and watch them carefully. After a few minutes, they will start to brown. Toss them often until they're lightly golden/browned on both sides. This whole process only takes about 5-10 minutes.
- Prep your other ingredients and add everything to the bowl of a food processor except for the olive oil.
- Pulse until everything is combined, then slowly drizzle the oil in while the motor is running on "low". Stop to scrape down the sides and continue processing until there's no large pieces of pine nuts.
- Transfer to a jar, and store in the fridge for up to a week.
- You can skip toasting the pine nuts if you wish.
- Customizations: I encourage you to add more garlic, oil, or even red pepper flakes if you want it to be spicy. Play with the recipe until it tastes exactly how you want it!
- This is my beloved Kitchen Aid food processor that I used to make this pesto.
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.