Homemade pesto is so quick and easy to make with just a few simple ingredients and is SO much better than store bought. It can be used in many different ways, and freezes well too so you can have a taste of summer year round!
- Fresh basil
- Pine nuts
- Parmesan cheese
- Olive Oil
Why use a food processor for pesto
Pesto originates from the Italian city of Genoa and is traditionally made in a mortar and pestle by crushing and grinding the ingredients together into a sauce. Most modern recipes use a food processor or blender to avoid the manual work. A food processor will provide the best results, both in texture and appearance. The wider blade will quickly chop the ingredients, resulting in a better texture and less bruising of the basil leaves than when using a blender, giving you a greener pesto.
How to make pesto
- To make the pesto, simply add the basil, pine nuts, garlic, and salt to a food processor and pulse 5 to 6 times until roughly chopped.
- Remove the lid and scrape down the sides. Reseal the lid the turn on the food processor and, with the machine running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil through the feed tube.
- Continue running the food processor until the mixture is well blended and emulsified. Stop to scrape the sides if needed.
How to use pesto
Pesto can be used in so many ways. The herb and garlic flavor is great on just about anything!
- The most common way to use pesto is as a simple pasta sauce.
- It's also great on pizza, either for replacing traditional tomato sauce or drizzling over top to add more flavor.
- Pesto is fantastic on grilled meats such as chicken, steak, and fish.
- It's also delicious on bruschetta, crostini, or sandwiches. You can also mix it with mayonnaise to create a pesto aioli which makes a great spread for sandwiches and burgers.
- Another great way to use pesto is tossing it with roasted veggies or potatoes for a boost of flavor.
- One of my favorite pesto uses is to combine it with alfredo sauce and add to cooked pasta to make a creamy pesto pasta. It's SO yummy! I usually do this with frozen pesto, and the alfredo only takes about 5-10 minutes to make so it's a really quick and easy dinner, perfect for weeknights.
How to store homemade pesto
You can refrigerate pesto in tightly sealed glass jar or plastic container for up 1 week. Top the pesto with a thin layer of olive oil to cover the surface to help prevent browning during storage.
Pesto freezes very well and will keep for 6 months. I always make a double batch so I have plenty to freeze. An ice cube tray works great to make little pesto cubes that are perfect for portioning out later. Pour your pesto into the tray and freeze. Once they are completely frozen remove the cubes from the tray and transfer them to a freezer bag.
Pesto Sauce Variations
- The classic pesto sauce recipe, also known as pesto alla genovese, is a blend of fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, extra-virgin olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. But pesto can easily be altered with different nuts or seeds in place of pine nuts. Almonds, pistachios, walnuts (my favorite!), or pecans are good options. Seeds like sunflower, hemp, or pumpkin seeds are great too for a nut free pesto sauce.
- Basil pesto is the most common, but you can also use other herbs or leafy greens in place of, or in combination with the basil. Mint and parsley are great herb choices. Spinach, kale, arugula, or even the greens from root vegetables like carrots or beets will work.
- For a dairy free and vegan pesto you can replace the Parmesan cheese with around 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast.
Quick and Easy Classic Pesto Sauce
- 2 cups fresh basil, tightly packed
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 2-3 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- Add the basil to a food processor along with the pine nuts, garlic, and salt then pulse 5-6 times until roughly chopped. Remove the lid and scrape down the sides.
- Close the lid then turn the food processor on and, with the machine running, drizzle the oil in through the feed tube. Blend until the mixture is well combined and emulsified, stopping to scrape the sides if needed. Be careful not to overmix, you want the pesto to have some texture.
- Add the Parmesan cheese and pulse 2-3 times to combine.
* All nutrition information we provide are estimates based on third party calculators. We encourage you to calculate these on your own for accurate results.