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Pesto Sauce

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Homemade pesto sauce is savory and full of luscious flavor! Drizzle it over vegetables, tofu, meat, chicken or fish. Fold it into your favorite pasta. Use it as a sandwich spread. With a few fresh ingredients you can whip up this pesto recipe in under 5 minutes!

Freshly-made pesto sauce in a round glass jar with a metal spoon.

WHAT IS PESTO SAUCE?

Pesto is an Italian sauce with a distinctive deep-green color. It originated in Genoa, Italy. Basil pesto consists of crushed fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, virgin olive oil, and hard aged cheese like Parmigiano-Reggiano. Often enjoyed with pasta, it’s a popular spread for grilled chicken sandwiches.

A glass jar with basil pesto and a silver spoon next to a white dishtowel.

WAYS TO USE BASIL PESTO

There are so many ways to use this delicious Italian sauce! Drizzle it over PIZZA BITES, mix it into a COLD SPAGHETTI SALAD, or use it as a dipping sauce for BAKED CHICKEN MEATBALLS.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy pesto sauce is spread over warm garlic bread. It’s over-the-top scrumptious, and allows me to cut back on the butter!


PESTO SAUCE INGREDIENTS

Below are traditional ingredients for basil pesto. When I don’t have Parigiano-Reggiano on hand, I use what’s in my fridge. Today that was shredded Parmesan and Romano cheeses. It gave my homemade pesto a rich beautiful flavor. Only have Parmesan? Your sauce will still be full-bodied and flavorful!

  • Fresh basil
  • Pine nuts (AKA: pignoli)
  • Garlic cloves
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or Parmesan, or Parmesan + Romano)
  • Himalayan salt (or sea salt)
  • Black pepper
  • OPTIONAL: A light squeeze of fresh lemon juice!

A flat-lay image of basil pesto ingredients artfully displayed on a white tabletop.

HOW TO MAKE PESTO

With this easy pesto recipe, you’ll never have to depend on store-bought pesto again! Here’s how to make fresh basil pesto, step-by-step:

  • STEP 1: Wash basil leaves. Completely dry them between paper towels or use two lint-free kitchen towels. Add them to the bowl of a food processor.

A top-down look at fresh basil leaves in the bowl of a Breville food processor.

  • STEP 2: Add pine nuts and peeled garlic cloves on top of the leaves.

Top down view of basil leaves, 2 garlic cloves and pine nuts in a food processor.

BEST PESTO RECIPE

  • STEP 3:  Attach the lid to your food processor. Pulse or process until ingredients are fully combined and basil leaves are finely minced. Half-way through, stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
  • STEP 4: With the machine still running, add the olive oil to the mixture in a slow steady stream. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again, if needed.
  • STEP 5: Add shredded or grated cheese to the bowl.
  • STEP 6: Process very briefly, until just combined. Don’t over process. We want to maintain some beautiful texture! Transfer the pesto to a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.

A collage of four recipe images showing how to make pesto step by step.

EXPERT TIPS FOR PESTO RECIPE

  • ROAST THE NUTS! For an added deep rustic flavor roast the pine nuts in the oven or in a skillet. Keep a close eye on them, because they can easily scorch or burn. Be sure to cool them all the way down before beginning this recipe. Otherwise they’ll loose their texture and become a gummy paste!
  • A SUBSTITUTE FOR PINE NUTS: If the price of these nuts are not in your budget, you can use chopped walnuts, pecans, cashews or almonds instead!
  • NOT ENOUGH BASIL ON HAND? If your basil plant can’t spare enough leaves for 2 packed cups, don’t fret! Use one cup basil leaves plus one cup: baby spinach leaves, kale (bitter), arugula (spicy), cilantro (citrus), or parsley (mild). Avoid using more than one add-in with the basil. A mash up of competing flavors is not desirable.

Homemade basil pesto in a round Weck mason jar with a small silver spoon inside it.

  • RINSE BASIL IN COLD WATER: When prepping the basil leaves, it’s important to rinse them in cold water. Warm or hot water will make the leaves limp. Make sure to fully dry the leaves before starting this recipe. Use either paper towels or flour sack kitchen towels.
  • ADD IN OLIVE OIL WITH THE MACHINE RUNNING: Adding the oil into the mixture while the machine is running helps the pesto sauce properly emulsify (fully combine). This is an important step in the recipe! We want the mixture to be stable so the ingredients won’t separate later.
  • HOW TO MAINTAIN A BRIGHT GREEN COLOR: When exposed to air, pesto darkens. To help prevent it from losing it’s vibrant green color, blanch the basil leaves in boiling water for 10 seconds, and then plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking. Drain, squeeze leaves dry, and roughly chop.

Fresh basil pesto in a Weck glass jar with a teaspoon beside it on the left.

KITCHEN TOOLS FOR THIS ITALIAN RECIPE

No food processor? An industrial blender with sharp blades can be a good substitute. It’s important that the leaves are not ripped and torn, but instead sharply minced!

FAQ ABOUT PESTO

For this recipe, these are the top two most frequently asked questions!

  • HOW LONG DOES PESTO STAY FRESH? Refrigerated in an air-tight container, homemade pesto will stay fresh for up to 3 days. To help it from getting discolored, add a thin layer of olive oil across the top; cover it with plastic wrap that touches the surface. Snap on the lid of the storage container and place it in the fridge.
  • CAN PESTO SAUCE BE FROZEN? Yes, it can! But as cheese does not fare well in the freezer, when making this recipe ahead of time for later use, omit the cheese. Once you defrost the sauce, add in the cheese!

Homemade pesto sauce in a glass mason jar with a silver spoon on a white table.

RATE THIS RECIPE ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Did you try this delicious Italian sauce? Rate this recipe in the comments below!

Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com

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Homemade basil pesto in a round Weck mason jar with a silver spoon.

Basil Pesto Recipe


  • Author: Denay DeGuzman
  • Prep Time: 4 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 Minutes
  • Total Time: 4 Minutes
  • Yield: 1 Cup 1x

Description

Homemade pesto sauce is quick and easy to make!  All you need is a food processor and a few fresh healthy ingredients.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh basil (leaves, no stems), firmly packed
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (or walnuts), toasted if desired
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmigiano Reggiano (or Parmesan cheese)
  • Himalayan salt (or sea salt), to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • OPTIONAL: A light squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Add basil, garlic and pine nuts to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until ingredients are fully combined and the basil is very finely minced. Halfway-through, stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
  2. While the machine is running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. This is an important part of the emulsification process! Don’t cut corners on this step. Scrape down the bowl again, if needed.
  3. Add grated cheese to the pesto sauce. Pulse very briefly, until just combined. Do not over-process. The pesto should maintain a bit of nice texture!
  4. Transfer pesto to a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste!

Notes

EXPERT TIPS FOR PESTO RECIPE

  • ROAST THE NUTS! For an added deep rustic flavor roast the pine nuts in the oven or in a skillet. Keep a close eye on them, because they can easily scorch or burn. Be sure to cool them all the way down before beginning this recipe. Otherwise they’ll loose their texture and become a gummy paste!
  • A SUBSTITUTE FOR PINE NUTS: If the price of these nuts are not in your budget, you can use chopped walnuts, pecans, cashews or almonds instead!
  • NOT ENOUGH BASIL ON HAND? If your basil plant can’t spare enough leaves for 2 packed cups, don’t fret! Use one cup basil leaves plus one cup: baby spinach leaves, kale (bitter), arugula (spicy), cilantro (citrus), or parsley (mild). Avoid using more than one add-in with the basil. A mash up of competing flavors is not desirable.
  • RINSE BASIL IN COLD WATER: When prepping the basil leaves, it’s important to rinse them in cold water. Warm or hot water will make the leaves limp. Make sure to fully dry the basil leaves before starting this recipe!
  • ADD IN OLIVE OIL WITH THE MACHINE RUNNING: Adding the oil into the mixture while the machine is running helps the pesto sauce properly emulsify (fully combine). This is an important step in the recipe! We want the mixture to be stable so the ingredients won’t separate later.
  • GENERAL: This recipe yields 1 cup of pesto sauce. When tossed with 1 pound of pasta, this recipe is enough for 4 servings.
  • Category: Sauces, Pasta
  • Method: Food Processor
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: Pesto, basil pesto, pesto sauce

Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com

PESTO SAUCE > JOIN THE CONVERSATION!

Do you love basil pesto? Have you ever tried making it from scratch? Share your thoughts about this delicious recipe in the comments below!

41 thoughts on “Pesto Sauce”

  1. This is the best recipe of pesto sauce for pasta and pizzas. The proportion of ingredients is perfect and it is a relief to know that the more affordable walnuts can be used instead of the rather expensive pine nuts. I added a whole lemon’s worth of lemon zest as it adds zing and freshness.

  2. I love it when I don’t need to run to the store to purchase something from a jar. Homemade is always the way to go because I can use real ingredients.

  3. I always forget how much I loooove pesto! Your photos are so gorgeous and make me want to make this asap. I think I will do it on a nice homemade pizza with some chicken and roasted peppers! YUM

  4. Homemade pesto is so much fresher and tastier than store bought. Looks like a great recipe, look forward to trying it!

  5. Oh wow. Thank you for this. We have some stock of grocery bought pesto sauce and I don’t really like it. ha! I will try this!

  6. I used to never be a fan of pesto, but I have to say, I love it now! I just picked up some fresh basil from Trader Joe’s…I’ve never made my own, but would love to give it a try!

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