Homemade pesto is full of flavor and made with five simple ingredients. Make this recipe today for a delicious sauce in just two easy steps!
Pesto is a staple in Italian cooking that has since become popular around the world.
The word “pesto” comes from the word “pestare,” which means “to crush.” It was given this name because it was traditionally made by crushing the ingredients with a mortar and pestle.
While it’s most commonly used in pasta dishes, pesto can brighten up just about any dish.
Plus, it’s easy to adjust the recipe however you’d like using what you have on hand. You can even make it vegan or allergen-free if needed.
How to use pesto sauce
This green, herbaceous sauce can be used in so many different ways. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Toss with cooked pasta and pine nuts
- Mix into dips for crusty bread, vegetables, or chips
- Serve it on Parmesan crostini
- Brush onto grilled meat and fish
- Use as a pizza sauce
- Spread on sandwiches or eggs
- Blend with more oil for a salad dressing
This pesto sauce recipe is so easy to make! Just combine a few simple ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
How to make homemade pesto
- Fresh basil leaves
- Minced garlic
- Pine nuts
- Parmesan cheese
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- Olive oil
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS
Start by adding all of the ingredients to a food processor or high-speed blender.
If you don’t have one of these kitchen tools, find out how to make it by hand in the recipe notes section below.
Then, blend all of the ingredients together until you get a smooth puree.
It may take up to 10 minutes, depending on the speed and quality of your food processor.
PESTO SAUCE RECIPE NOTES
- Prevent browning: Blanch the basil leaves in boiling water for 30 seconds, then transfer to an ice bath. This deactivates the enzyme that causes browning when cut basil is exposed to oxygen.
- Grated cheese: Always buy fresh and shred your own – bagged shreds have a preservative that gives them an unpleasant waxy texture.
Making fresh pesto by hand
You can easily make this recipe without a food processor, it will just take a bit longer.
- Using a sharp knife, finely chop the garlic with ⅓ of the basil leaves.
- Add in the pine nuts with another ⅓ of the basil leaves and chop again.
- Then add the grated Parmesan with the last of the basil and chop until everything is incorporated.
- Transfer the mixture to a plastic bag and pour in the olive oil and seasonings. Press the air out and seal.
- Roll a jar or rolling pin over the bag to further crush the ingredients.
- Empty into a bowl or jar and stir well to combine.
How long does homemade pesto last in the refrigerator?
Pesto will last for up to a week in the refrigerator when stored in an airtight container.
If you plan on storing it for more than a day or two, add a splash of oil on top to help preserve it.
Freezing basil pesto
The easiest way to freeze pesto is to spoon it into ice cube trays. Top each ice cube section with a drop of olive oil, then cover with plastic wrap.
You can store the trays like this in the freezer, or pop each cube out once frozen and store in a freezer-safe storage bag.
Pesto will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to use, thaw as many cubes as you need in the refrigerator.
Is this a vegan pesto recipe?
No, it’s not vegan because it contains cheese. But there are two simple ways to make this recipe vegan:
- Replace the cheese: Swap out the Parmesan with dairy-free cheese or nutritional yeast. Or omit the cheese altogether and replace with more pine nuts.
- Make an authentic pistou: This is a French sauce similar to pesto that is naturally vegan. Simply leave out the pine nuts and cheese altogether.
Can I substitute any of the ingredients?
Absolutely! Here are some ideas to make this pesto recipe more unique:
- Basil – try adding or substituting kale, spinach, fresh parsley, or fresh mint leaves
- Pine nuts – replace with walnuts, almonds, cashews, or Brazil nuts
- Parmesan – Gruyere, asiago, and aged white cheddar create different flavors
- Olive oil – use another mild oil like avocado, walnut, or grapeseed oil
Homemade Pesto Sauce
- 1 cup fresh Basil Leaves
- 4 tsp minced Garlic
- 3 tbsp Pine Nuts
- 1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese freshly grated
- 1/8 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1/8 tsp Black Pepper
- 1/3 cup Olive Oil
- Add all ingredients to food processor and run until mixture is emulsified (about 10 minutes).
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.