How To: Make Pesto

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

Making fresh, homemade pesto is so easy, fresh and delicious! Learn how to make pesto with this easy tutorial.


  • 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.

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.

If you make this recipe, be sure to snap a photo and hashtag it #gimmesomeoven. I'd love to see what you cook!

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

Leave a Comment:


  1. loves pesto — October 31, 2009 @ 11:26 pm (#)

    freezing the pesto in an ice cube tray is brilliant!

  2. Julianna — October 19, 2010 @ 6:54 pm (#)

    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!

  3. Linda Jones — July 9, 2014 @ 11:40 am (#)

    I would love the nutritional information for this recipe

  4. Antonio Winspeare — July 10, 2014 @ 12:36 pm (#)

    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!


  5. ms. mari — March 11, 2015 @ 12:28 am (#)

    This is so wonderful, thank you. It is perfect…even the peper

  6. Ella Harris — March 24, 2015 @ 10:57 pm (#)

    Hi Ali.  I made this pesto recently and it is delicious!  Perfect! Thank you for the recipe!

    • Ali — March 25, 2015 @ 12:43 pm (#)

      Hey Ella, thanks so much for giving it a try – I’m glad you liked it!

  7. Elena — April 2, 2015 @ 5:03 am (#)

    Hi Ali,
    As Italian native, I would agree with Antonio to protect the traditional way of making Italian recipes but I would add to this that cooking is also creativity and fantasy.  Thought it’s true that certain ingredients do not match with others or hide the main one’s taste, fantasy is permit !   Personally I do my pesto with Arugula as well or with a mixed of basil and arugula, it’s really great !
    I would end this message too by saying that cooking is question of taste and if some ingredients do not please, who avoid you to change it as long as you find your happiness ?
    One tip for you and your fans : For the Caprese salad, I change sometimes the tomatoes with peaches, totally refreshing !

    • Ali — April 2, 2015 @ 8:21 am (#)

      Thank you Elena, and I will definitely try the cappers salad with peaches, I can’t wait for summer to arrive so I can enjoy them! Cheers!

  8. Sarina — April 19, 2015 @ 12:44 pm (#)

    How many calories would you say this is?

    • Ali — April 19, 2015 @ 2:14 pm (#)

      Hey Sarina! I’m sorry but we currently aren’t publishing nutrition facts on the site. The nutrition calculators available are not 100% accurate, and we never want to publish anything that might be misleading. But many of our readers love the My Fitness Pal nutrition calculator, so feel free to try that for an estimate. I hope that helps!

  9. kombizz — May 7, 2015 @ 2:58 pm (#)

    I am going to make it for this Saturday. Hopefully if I follow this simple instruction, then I could have a lovely delicious pesto.

  10. Chelle — May 20, 2015 @ 7:03 am (#)

    Ali, I trimmed my basil for the first time this morning, popped on Pinterest for a pesto recipe and this was on the top of my feed!  Serendipity, I’ll look no further!!  Thanks for all of your inspiration. 

    • Ali — May 20, 2015 @ 8:27 am (#)

      Thank you, Chelle! I hope you enjoyed it! : )


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