Enjoy fresh Pesto Sauce at home with this delicious basil pesto recipe. It's packed with fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil to make an easy sauce in less than 15 minutes! Perfect for adding to pasta, pizza, salads, bread, and more!
Homemade Basil Pesto Sauce
You know the saying, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." I take saying literally when I say, "When life hands you an abundance of basil, make basil pesto!"
Our homemade pesto recipe is packed with fresh basil, so you'll need plenty. Add to that Parmesan cheese, crunchy pine nuts, and fragrant garlic. Drizzle in some good quality extra virgin olive oil and you'll have a freshly made pasta sauce in under 15 minutes!
Ingredients You'll Need and Possible Substitutions:
- Basil: We make our pesto with plenty of fresh basil. Make sure you have enough for 2 cups packed.
- Parmesan Cheese: Use cheese freshly shredded off the block. You'll need about 2 ounces or ½ a cup.
- Pine Nuts: You'll find pine nuts in the baking section of the supermarket. Walnuts, cashews, or pistachios make great substitutes if you're unable to find pine nuts.
- Garlic: Fresh garlic cloves work best. Use 1 to 2 cloves unless they're pungent then reduce the amount. We don't want the flavor of garlic to overpower the pesto.
- Salt and Pepper: It only takes a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Good quality extra virgin olive oil brings this sauce together and adds a ton of flavor.
How to Make Pesto Sauce:
This pesto recipe is easy to make and delivers big flavor. The best part is it's so simple to prepare!
Scroll to the recipe card below for ingredient amounts and full instructions.
- Place the basil leaves, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, garlic cloves, salt, and pepper into a food processor. Give it 7 to 8 light pulses to break down the basil.
- Decrease the speed and gradually add in the olive oil until all components are blended together.
Tips for Success:
- Use fresh basil as it has a bold flavor that cannot be replicated with dried herbs.
- Start by adding small amounts of olive oil to your pesto and slowly add more until you achieve the desired consistency.
- To give your sauce an extra boost, try toasting pine nuts in a pan before adding them in!
- Pulse ingredients together in bursts to maintain texture.
- Use garlic sparingly when making pesto — too much can overpower the other flavors, while just enough will bring out a pleasant aroma and taste without being overwhelming.
- Try adding different types of cheese such as Grana Padano or Pecorino Romano in place of Parmesan.
- A squeeze of lemon juice can provide an acidic brightness that balances out the richness of other ingredients.
- Don’t forget about herbs - parsley, mint or cilantro are excellent additions that add complexity to any pesto dish!
How to Store Homemade Pesto Sauce:
Refrigerator: Store leftover pesto sauce in the refrigerator covered by a thin layer of olive oil for up to 5 days. The olive oil keeps the pesto from drying out and turning brown.
Freezer: Freeze leftover sauce in an ice cube tray then transfer the frozen cubes to a plastic bag. They'll stay good in the freezer for about 3 months.
How is Pesto Sauce Used?
Pesto sauce is used as a dip, or spread on sandwiches or toast, as an ingredient in pasta dishes like pesto linguine, lasagna, or pesto macaroni salad and to dress up grilled vegetables. It's also great for marinating meats or as a flavorful addition to pizza.
What Does Pesto Taste Like?
The flavor is nutty, fragrant, and fresh with an earthy undertone from the Parmesan cheese. Pesto's texture can range from creamy to chunky, depending on how much olive oil is used in making it.
What Can You Use in Place of Pine Nuts?
You can use a variety of different nuts and seeds in place of pine nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, or even pumpkin seeds.
Recipe Card with Ingredient Amounts and Instructions
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded off the block
- ⅓ cup pine nuts
- 2 garlic cloves
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Place the basil, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, garlic, salt, and pepper into a food processor.2 cups fresh basil leaves½ cup Parmesan cheese⅓ cup pine nuts2 garlic cloves¼ teaspoon kosher salt⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Pulse 7 to 8 times just enough to break down the basil.
- Switch to low speed, and slowly pour in the olive oil. Mix until the oil is fully incorporated and all ingredients are smooth and creamy.½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Serve immediately or store for a later use.
- Scroll up and see the post for tips, FAQs, and storage information.