This Basil Pesto Recipe features a blend of fresh basil leaves, Parmesan, garlic, pine nuts, and lemon juice. Its vibrant green color and herbaceous aroma make it an irresistible addition to a variety of dishes! Enjoy it tossed in pasta, with roasted vegetables, or even as a dipping sauce for your favorite bread.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Quick & easy: All you need is a food processor and about 5 minutes. This basil pesto recipe is as simple as it gets!
- Fresh & flavorful: The fresh basil and tangy lemon juice create a vibrant flavor that outshines any store-bought pesto.
- Versatile: This homemade basil pesto recipe is more than just a pasta sauce! You can use it in a multitude of dishes, from sandwiches and pizza to roasted veggies and dips.
- Healthy: Basil pesto is packed with nutrient-dense ingredients. It’s a great source of healthy fats from olive oil and pine nuts and antioxidants from lemons.
Homemade Basil Pesto Recipe
Pesto is a traditional Italian sauce that originates from the region of Liguria, but it is now a world-renowned condiment. It combines the bright, fresh flavors of basil and lemon with the earthy, nutty tastes of pine nuts and Parmesan, and the boldness of garlic.
The result is a thick, vibrant green sauce that’s bursting with flavor. It’s one of my go-to condiments for dishes like pasta and pasta salad, green bean salad, as a spread for sandwiches and pizzas, or even as a garnish for soups.
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Basil: Brings a fresh, herbaceous flavor. If you don’t have an herb garden or can’t find fresh basil at the market, you can use fresh spinach or arugula instead.
- Pine nuts: Add a rich, buttery flavor and a slight crunch. If pine nuts are hard to find or expensive near you, substitute them with walnuts or almonds.
- Parmesan: This gives the pesto a savory depth. You can also use asiago or Pecorino Romano instead for a slightly different flavor profile.
- Olive oil: Forms the base of this basil pesto recipe, imparting a fruity richness. Using high-quality extra-virgin olive oil is key here.
- Garlic: Adds a punchy, zesty note. If raw garlic is too strong, try roasting it first.
- Lemon juice: Brightens the pesto and balances the richness of the oil and cheese. White wine vinegar will work in a pinch.
- Salt: Enhances all the other flavors. Since Parmesan is already salty, start slow with the salt and work your way up from there.
How to Make This Basil Pesto Recipe
- Combine the ingredients: Add all the ingredients into a food processor. I suggest a food processor over a blender for this recipe since it allows the mixture to move more freely.
- Blend: Pulse until everything is finely chopped and resembles a thick paste. You’ll have to use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides throughout.
- Adjust the consistency: If you prefer a thinner pesto, you can add a little more olive oil a tablespoon at a time, then taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking before serving!
This homemade basil pesto recipe is one of my favorite sauces to make in the summertime since it goes with virtually everything! Here are a few ideas:
- Pasta: Toss it with freshly cooked pasta or pasta salad for a quick and flavorful meal.
- Sauce: Mix some with homemade mayo as a delicious dip or sandwich spread.
- Pizza: Swap tomato sauce with this pesto for a twist on homemade pizza night.
- Protein: Pair this basil pesto recipe with proteins like grilled chicken or salmon.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can use a mortar and pestle to make this basil pesto recipe. It will take more time and effort, but the result will be a more traditional and rustic-style pesto.
The bitterness is likely coming from the basil leaves. Make sure to use fresh, green leaves and remove any flowers, which can add bitterness. Additionally, try not to blend your basil pesto recipe too much since the oil can overheat and attribute to a bitter flavor.
Pesto can darken due to oxidation. To prevent this, top it with a layer of olive oil before storing it in the fridge.
This basil pesto recipe stores well and is easy to make ahead of time. Just follow these tips:
- Fridge: Store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. Remember to drizzle a bit of olive oil on top to prevent oxidation.
- Freezer: Freeze it in ice cube trays, then transfer the cubes to a zip-top bag for longer storage. Thaw them overnight in the fridge when you’re ready to use them.
- Prep ahead: Make a big batch of this pesto and freeze it in small portions for quick and easy meals in the future.
- Spinach pesto: Substitute half the basil with fresh spinach for a fresh, earthy flavor.
- Sun-dried tomato pesto: Add a handful of sun-dried tomatoes to the mix.
- Parsley pesto: Not a fan of basil? Try fresh parsley instead for a different flavor profile.
- Vegan pesto: Replace the Parmesan with nutritional yeast for a 100% plant-based option.
- Blanch the basil: If you want to keep the pesto vibrant green, blanch the basil beforehand. Add the leaves to a pot of boiling water and blanch for a quick 15 seconds. Immediately transfer the leaves to an ice water bath, squeeze out any excess water, then pat them dry.
- Use high-quality olive oil: The flavor of the oil is noticeable in this recipe. I recommend using the best quality you can afford.
- Add the cheese last: If you’re using a high-speed blender, add the cheese at the end to prevent it from overheating and clumping.
- Toast the pine nuts: Toasting the pine nuts before blending can enhance their flavor.
Looking for More Sauce Recipes?
If you enjoyed this homemade basil pesto recipe, be sure to check out some more of my favorites like these:
If you try this Basil Pesto Recipe, let me know what you think! Rate and review this recipe in the comments below. Don’t forget to take a picture and tag me on Instagram @lenaskitchenblog!
Best Basil Pesto Recipe
- Add all of the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until everything is finely chopped and resembles a thick paste. Using a rubber spatula scrape down the sides and repeat until you reach your desired consistency.
- If you prefer a thinner pesto, add in more olive oil 1 teaspoon at a time until your desired consistency is reached. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired!