How To Make Pesto

Learn how to make pesto with this classic fresh basil pesto recipe.  It’s easy to make in the blender or food processor with just 5 main ingredients, and always tastes so fresh and delicious.

Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe

In honor of the fresh crop of vibrant basil plants adorning our balcony this spring, I thought this would be a good time to pop back in and update my classic basil pesto recipe here on the blog.  

I actually first shared this pesto recipe in my very first summer of blogging, which was nearly a decade ago now.  (Crazy!)  And while I have experimented with dozens of different pesto recipes in the years since — swapping in various kinds of different greens and herbs and nuts and seasonings galore — there’s still nothing in my book that beats a good classic fresh basil pesto sauce.  That simple combination of fresh basil, Parmesan, pine nuts, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil always hits the spot.  Plus, as sauces go, classic basil pesto is incredibly quick and easy to make, and also freezes beautifully for later if you would like.  And of course, it can be served a million different delicious ways!

So, if you happen to have a bumper crop of basil right now, or if you’re just craving those fresh pesto sauce flavors this spring, grab your blender or food processor and let’s make a quick batch!

How to Make Pesto | 1-Minute Video

How To Make Pesto Ingredients

Basil Pesto Ingredients:

To make this classic basil pesto recipe, you will need:

  • Fresh Basil Leaves: To measure basil, just discard the thicker stems and lightly pack the leaves down into a measuring cup.
  • Pine Nuts: Lightly toasted, to bring out the flavor.
  • Parmesan Cheese: Freshly grated for maximum flavor.  (Or you can use pre-grated cheese to save a step, but I would recommend adding in a bit more since it’s not as flavorful).
  • Fresh Whole Garlic Cloves: No need to mince, your blender or food processor will do that for you.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: I recommend using good-quality oil for the best flavor.
  • Salt and Black Pepper: Probably the biggest mistake people make with homemade pesto is not seasoning it enough, so be sure to taste and add more salt and pepper if needed!

How To Make Pesto in a Blender or Food Processor

How To Make Pesto Sauce:

To make homemade pesto, simply…

  1. Pulse dry ingredients together in a blender or food processor until combined.  Basically, everything except the olive oil.  Pulse until everything is finely-chopped.
  2. Drizzle in the olive oil.  Then while your blender or food processor is still running, drizzle in the olive oil slowly until the mixture is combined.  Puree until smooth, stopping if needed too scrape down the sides so that everything is evenly mixed.  Also, if your pesto is too thick, feel free to thin it out with a few tablespoons of extra olive oil or water.
  3. Taste and season.  Give the sauce a taste (you can dip a veggie stick or piece of bread in, if you’d like), and season with extra salt and pepper if needed.  Also, feel free to add in extra Parmesan or basil or garlic if you’d like more of those flavors.
  4. Use immediately or store.  And enjoy!

Pesto Recipe

Pesto Recipe Variations:

Oh boy, there are infinite variations you could make to this classic basil pesto recipe.  Here are a few though!

  • Swap in different greens/herbs: In lieu of basil (or mixed with basil), you could swap in baby arugula, spinach, parsley, cilantro, etc.
  • Swap in different nuts: In lieu of pine nuts (which can be pricey), swap in walnuts, pecans, almonds, pepitas, or any other favorite nut.
  • Nix the cheese: If you would like to make vegan pesto, sub 3-5 tablespoons (to taste) nutritional yeast in place of the Parmesan.
  • Add some heat: I’m a big fan of adding in a few pinches of crushed red pepper flakes or a few slices of jalapeño to give pesto an extra kick.

How To Use Pesto:

There are also, of course, endless ways to use pesto!  Some of my faves include using it as a:

  • Pasta or gnocchi sauce: Always so delicious!
  • Dipper for fresh veggies or bread: Perfect as an appetizer or snack.
  • Mixed into mashed potatoes: Leave out some of the butter and mix in some pesto instead!
  • Salad dressing: Just add in some extra oil or water to thin it out, then toss with your fave salad.
  • Pizza or crostini sauce: So simple and flavorful.
  • Soup garnish: Perfect with so many Italian soups.
  • Protein or veggie sauce: Pesto can pair well with nearly any meat, chicken or seafood, as well as just about every kind of cooked vegetable.  So feel free to use it as a finishing sauce for any protein or veggie dishes (especially grilled in the summertime).

How To Store Pesto:

How To Refrigerate Pesto: To refrigerate pesto, store it in a sealed container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.  Also, to prevent browning and also help the pesto last a bit longer, feel free to pour a thin layer of olive oil on top of the pesto to cover its surface.  Or alternatively, you can place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the surface of the pesto.

How To Freeze Pesto: Pesto also freezes beautifully!  You can freeze it in large batches if you would like.  But my favorite method is freezing it in ice cube trays so that it is divided up into small, versatile portions.  Just freeze, then pop the cubes out and into a freezer bag, and re-freeze until ready to use.

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How To Make Pesto

Learn how to make pesto with this classic fresh basil pesto recipe.  It’s easy to make in the blender or food processor with just 5 main ingredients, and so fresh and delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups lightly-packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. In a food processor or blender, pulse the basil, Parmesan, pine nuts, garlic, salt and pepper together until finely-chopped.
  2. With the food processor or blender still running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until it is completely combined.  Pause the food processor or blender and scrape down the sides, then pulse again until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Serve immediately.  Or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.
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If you make this recipe, be sure to snap a photo and hashtag it #gimmesomeoven. I'd love to see what you cook!

Basil Pesto Recipe

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92 comments on “How To Make Pesto”

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

  2. 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!

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  5. I would love the nutritional information for this recipe

  6. 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!

    Enjoy!

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

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

  13. 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 !
    Elena 

    • 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!

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  15. How many calories would you say this is?

    • 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!

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

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  24. 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. 

  25. Love it, I need the nutritional information for this recipe. Thanks!

    • Thank you! Unfortunately though, we currently are not 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!

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  27. You made my day!!! I love pesto, I add it to a lot of meals I cook and I was tired of store’s Pesto wich comes into too small containers. Now I’ll get fresh and delicious pesto in big quantities! :D Thank you!!

  28. Hi Ali,

    I was wondering if you could give suggestions for a couple good food processors. It doesn’t need to be a very large one, but just one that is reliable and can make things like this pesto, salsas, Oreo balls, etc.. Thanks!

    • Hey, Laura! We like Cuisinart. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with one of those. We’d recommend

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  30. How long will these keep in the refrigerator? Looking forward to trying it soon!

    • Hi, Laurel! We’d say a week, maybe two, but we always do the look, sniff and taste test. : )

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  34. I just used your recipe and had amazing results. I just substituted marinated artichokes for the Parmesan since my husband can’t eat cheese. It’s great! Thanks for sharing.

  35. great recipe!

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  46. Just yesterday I made my pesto sauce with walnuts, and as in Italy my used cheese was pecorino, like there, . I found it here in Venezuela made in national factories.

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  49. This soup looks amazing! my husband and I are currently dairy free – just curious if you had any suggestions as to how much nutritional yeast to use as a substitute for the parmesan in the pesto?

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