How To: Make Pesto

August 27, 2009 by Ali

Learn how to make pesto with this easy 7-ingredient homemade pesto recipe. So fresh, and SO good!

How To Make Pesto -- fresh homemade pesto is so easy to make! |

I realized the other day that it’s been awhile since I’ve made a basic, classic pesto. Most of the time I love experimenting with random ingredients, and enjoy seeing what creative deliciousness can result. But with a (still!) overflowing basil plant, and a jar of pine nuts in the pantry, I decided this week that it was time to revisit a classic. :)

That said, making pesto is undoubtedly more about the method than the recipe. So I thought this would be a fun post to offer the basics for proportions for pesto ingredients. And then you can either make the classic recipe, or do some of your own mixing and matching and creative experimenting. The joy of pesto is that it’s very hard to go wrong here. Most ingredients blend pretty well together. And if by chance you do end up adding a little too much of this or that, you can always just add more of the other ingredients and overpower whatever was too strong.

And while pesto is traditionally regarded as a “summer” recipe, I’ve included some year-round ingredient substitution ideas below as well. Enjoy!!

How To Make Pesto |

Here’s the first photo I posted for pesto back in 2009. :)

How To Make Pesto -- fresh homemade pesto is so easy to make! |

How To Make Pesto -- fresh homemade pesto is so easy to make! |

How To Make Pesto -- fresh homemade pesto is so easy to make! |

How To Make Pesto -- fresh homemade pesto is so easy to make! |

How To Make Pesto -- fresh homemade pesto is so easy to make! |

Possible ingredient substitutions:

*Note that you may need to vary the amounts, as some of these ingredients function differently than those in the recipe.

  • For basil: herbs (parsley, cilantro, sage, mint, tarragon, dill, etc.), greens (spinach, arugula, etc.), veggies (asparagus, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, etc.)
  • For pine nuts: walnuts, pecans, almonds, pistachios, hemp seeds, etc.
  • For parmesan: romano, asiago, nutritional yeast, etc.
  • Other add-ins: spices (cayenne, chile powder, ginger, nutmeg, paprika, special salts/peppers, etc.), fresh ginger, etc.

Possible uses:

  • Pastas: Simply stir in the sauce after cooking pasta. Mix with veggies or meats/poultry/seafood.
  • Potatoes or gnocchi: For mashed potatoes or gnocchi, stir in after potatoes are cooked. Use to top baked potatoes after they are cooked.
  • Spread: Use as a spread on toasted slices of baguettes. Or spread atop slices of french bread, and pop under the broiler until they are golden and bubbly.
  • Soups: Add a dollop to your favorite soup just before serving.
  • Dips: Use as a dip for fresh veggies, chips, or breads.
  • Drizzle: Add extra oil to thin out sauce, and drizzle atop grilled meat, veggies, or salads. Or use as a marinade.
  • Pistou: Leave out the nuts, and make this classic thinner French sauce.
  • Sauce it up: Use as you would any other sauce to add flavor (e.g. to top meats/poultry/seafood, to mix into meatloaf, salads, etc.)

How to store:

  • Refrigerate: Store in a jar and tightly seal. To extend its life and prevent, pour a small layer of olive oil on top to keep the air out of the pesto. Keep for one week. (Although many contend it safely last longer, I would freeze the pesto if you want to use it after a week.)
  • Freeze: I love-love-love freezing pesto in ice cube trays. This way you can control your portions, and just thaw out exactly as much as you need. To freeze, just grease an ice cube tray with cooking spray (or line it with plastic wrap), and then pour in the pesto and freeze.

How To: Make Pesto

Total Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 2 cups


  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 3-4 cloves garlic (I think the more, the merrier!)
  • 3 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (or about 1/2 tsp. of each)


In a food processor or blender, blend together basil, nuts, garlic, and cheese. Pour in oil slowly while still mixing, and then add in salt and pepper. Scrape down the sides and pulse once more to make sure it's well-blended.

Ali's Tip: I just recently learned the key to learning how to reap the most from your basil plants each summer. It's all about making sure you keep it cut down (and thus - have more to use!). Here's a link to a great tutorial I found on the web.

(c) 2013 Gimme Some Oven. All rights reserved.

How To Make Pesto -- fresh homemade pesto is so easy to make! |

About Ali

Ali Ebright is a freelance recipe developer and food writer/photographer, and blogs at Gimme Some Oven and Gimme Some Life. She also loves all things music, traveling near and far, actually making things from Pinterest, cozying up with a good book and her sweet pup, Henry, and spending time with a wonderful group of friends. Come say hello and follow Ali on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ & Instagram.

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7 thoughts on “How To: Make Pesto

  1. As I am a protector of the traditional way of making Italian recipes, and an Academician of the Accademia della Cucina Italiana, I have the following comments:

    Basically good recipe although I would avoid pepper, as it is not in the original Genoese practice.

    Impossible to subscribe to substituting Parmesan with any other cheese, certainly not Asiago! And not acceptable to change pine nuts with any other form of nuts! Are we nuts?

    And certain variations that would be acceptable by Ligurian standards have not been mentioned: why not add a few cooked green beans? And maybe a boiled potato or two?

    The amount of garlic used is a question of taste. The traditional recipe tends to have more garlic than the modern acquired tastes allow…. But then we no longer want to keep the witches away… We just have them visit a plastic surgeon!


    - Antonio Winspeare

  2. I would love the nutritional information for this recipe

    - Linda Jones

  3. Ali – I have been recently making pesto with carrot top greens (we have been getting an excess of in our CSA) and it is pretty good!

    - Julianna

  4. freezing the pesto in an ice cube tray is brilliant!

    - loves pesto