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How to Make Fresh Basil Pesto

Jun 15, 2022 | 0 comments

Once you’ve made your own basil pesto, you’ll never go back. It takes less than 10 minutes and is SO versatile. Toss through pasta, use as salad dressing, spoon over grilled meat or veggies or just spread on toast.

Basil pesto in a small glass bowl, with a gold spoon on a grey marble background.

Fresh basil pesto has to be one of my absolute favourite sauces to make. It’s truly SO easy to make it yourself and it’s far superior to the jarred versions you can pick up at the store (which I always find just taste a bit dull). Once you try making this, you won’t go back to jarred.

It’s also a super versatile little ingredient to have on hand. Toss through pasta for an emergency, super quick weeknight meal when you’re exhausted and just need something quickly, drizzle over roasted veggies for a serious flavour kick, swirl through thick labneh or hummus to make a quick dip for entertaining, or use as a spread in a sandwich. You’re never far from a full, easy meal with this pesto in your fridge.

Ingredients

Only a handful of flavour-packed ingredients are needed to make delicious fresh pesto.

Ingredients for basil pesto laid out on a grey marble background and labelled.
  • Olive oil. You want a good quality, extra virgin olive oil here because you can really taste it.
  • Basil. You can’t make basil pesto without this glorious guy! You’ll need 2 packed cups of leaves, and really make sure you pack them in there. Try and remove any longer, tougher stems but don’t worry too much about trimming them.
  • Pine nuts. For a classic basil pesto, these lovely guys are a must – but they tend to be quite expensive. Instead, you can use cashews, almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds. Whatever you do, make sure you toast the nuts or seeds first! Get them in a dry pan for a couple of minutes, tossing frequently until they smell toasty and have lovely golden spots on both sides.
  • Parmesan cheese. I’m using freshly grated parmesan and I recommend you do too. Pre-grated cheese has an anti-caking agent coating and you won’t get as smooth a pesto in the end.

Essential equipment –

I use a food processor in this recipe as I find it does a quicker and better job than my blender. You could use a blender, you may just need to add more olive oil to loosen things up and get the blades going. You could also do it the traditional way with a pestle and mortar!

How to make the pesto

Start by getting your basil, parmesan, lemon juice, toasted pine nuts, garlic and salt into your food processor. Blitz for a minute, until everything is broken up and a chunky paste forms. Scrape down the sides.

Next, you’re going to slowly pour in the olive oil. Doing this slowly will allow the pesto to emulsify and form a cohesive sauce, rather than the oil separating. And you’re done! Use a rubber spatula to scrape out every last morsel of the pesto and store it in a covered container in the fridge for up to 10 days.

How to keep basil pesto bright green

The basil in the pesto will start to discolour when it comes into contact with the air, so there are a couple of little tricks you can do to keep that glorious green colour.

Either pour a layer of olive oil over the top of the pesto OR use a piece of cling film to cover the pesto, making sure it’s touching the top and covering it completely to make a barrier from the air! I like to do this, then cover it again with the lid of whatever container I’m storing it in.

Got a question?

How long will the pesto last?

Homemade pesto will last up to 10 days in the fridge in an airtight container.

Can I make pesto without pine nuts?

You can! Just replace them with other nuts like cashews, walnuts, and almonds or you can use sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds. If you can, toast the nuts or seeds first in a dry pan for a couple of minutes (watching it closely as they can burn quickly).

What are some ideas for using the pesto?

Pesto is such a staple in my kitchen and you can use it in so many ways! These are a couple of my favourite ways to use it to inspire you:
– Make the best, Caprese-style orzo pesto pasta salad.
– Swap mayo for pesto in this fresh and zingy pesto potato salad with crispy prosciutto and creamy burrata.
– Toss through your favourite pasta for a quick and easy weeknight meal.
– Dollop on top of your favourite pizza after cooking.
– Spoon on top of labneh or hummus as a lovely dip topper.
– Make cute little party crostini with a dollop of pesto, a little prosciutto and sliced tomatoes.
– Mix through a pile of roasted veggies to make a delicious side.

Like this recipe? You might enjoy these quick sauces too

If you make this recipe, I’d love to hear from you! You can leave me a comment below.

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Basil pesto in a small glass bowl, with a gold spoon on a grey marble background.

How to Make Fresh Basil Pesto


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  • Author: Kate Alexandra
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cup 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

Once you’ve made your own basil pesto, you’ll never go back. It takes less than 10 minutes and is SO versatile. Toss through pasta, use as salad dressing, spoon over grilled meat or veggies or just spread on toast. 


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Add ingredients to a food processor. Get the 2 cups of basil leaves, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and the 3 garlic cloves in the bowl of your food processor. Blitz for a minute, until a chunky paste forms. Scrape down the sides of your bowl to make sure all the ingredients are having a chance to be blitzed up.
  2. Pour in the olive oil. With the motor running, slowly pour the 1/2 cup of olive oil into the bowl of the food processor until a lovely thick pesto forms. The reason we’re pouring the oil in slowly while the motor is running is because it’ll make sure the pesto becomes a cohesive sauce, without the oil separating. Again, scrape down the bowl and blitz so everything is combined. And you’re done! Use a rubber spatula to get all the pesto out of the bowl. Store the pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 10 days.

Notes

INGREDIENT NOTES: If you don’t have pine nuts, you can use cashews, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds.

STORAGE INSTRUCTIONS: The pesto will start to darken in colour the longer it’s exposed to the air, so a trick I like to do is to cover the top of the pesto with cling film (so the cling film is touching the top of the pesto). This creates a barrier between the pesto and the air and will keep it green for longer.

  • Prep Time: 10
  • Category: sauces
  • Method: food processor
  • Cuisine: mediterranean

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 20g
  • Calories: 137
  • Sugar: 0.3g
  • Sodium: 249mg
  • Fat: 13.5g
  • Saturated Fat: 3g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 10g
  • Carbohydrates: 1.2g
  • Fiber: 0.2g
  • Protein: 4.1g
  • Cholesterol: 6mg

Welcome!

I’m Kate, the creator behind Dished. I love creating flavour packed, simple (ish) recipes for you, designed for every day and special occasions.

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