This simple and easy fresh basil pesto is so versatile! Toss it with cooked pasta, spread it on BLT’s, or serve it on grilled chicken or steak.
A Versatile Recipe Staple!
Pesto is a staple in our house, especially during the spring and summer. We love blending up fresh basil with whatever toasted nuts we have in our pantry. Usually we stick with walnuts or pistachios—today’s pesto includes the latter.
While the pesto we make usually goes on a bed of freshly cooked pasta, we love using it on BLT’s, grilled chicken or steamed vegetables. It’s so versatile!
This year we decided to make a small spot in our planter to grow a few things. It was such a great idea! Our basil plant is about 5x the size it was when we planted it and has given us enough basil to make at least 10 batches of pesto over the summer!
How to Make Basil Pesto
NUTS. First things first, toast your nuts in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant.
Why do you toast the nuts? Toasting the pine nuts makes them more fragrant and gives your pesto more flavor. Just make sure not to burn them. They don’t need to be kept on the stove very long: keep an eye on them!
BASIL. While the nuts are cooling, wash up your basil or greens and pat dry. Place the basil in a blender or food processor first that way the weight of the other ingredients helps push the basil into the blades of the machine.
PROCESS. Then add two whole cloves of garlic, the toasted nuts, ¼ c. of high quality extra-virgin olive oil (this is my favorite), and 2 tbsp. of melted butter. (I like to add butter in place of 2 tbsp. of olive oil because I think it gives the pesto more flavor.) Add a nice scoop of Parmesan or Pecorino cheese (or save it and fold it in at the end, whichever you prefer) and blend away.
Once the mixture looks coarse, add the remaining ¼ c. of olive oil and blend until smooth. The pesto should be incredibly vibrant and fragrant. As it sits, you should see a little bit of separation… that’s perfectly fine!
Ways to Serve
We like to use homemade basil pesto on pastas mostly, but there are so many ways to use it! Here are a few ideas:
- Toss it with some freshly cooked Homemade Pasta.
- Spread it on a panini.
- Serve it over some chicken, salmon, or steak.
- Use it as the sauce for a homemade pizza.
There are a few ways you can switch up your homemade pesto.
- NUTS: Traditionally pine nuts are used, but we prefer the flavor of walnuts, pecans or pistachios… plus they’re a lot cheaper! Regardless of what kind you use, make sure it is ¼ cup and don’t forget to toast them.
- CHEESE: Parmesan and pecorino are both acceptable cheeses to use.
- BASIL: If you don’t like basil, you can always use parsley or cooked green peas. Just use the same amount (2 cups) as you would the basil.
Storing & Freezing
Keep pesto STORED in the fridge in an airtight container. It will keep for about a week. You may need to stir it before using it in case it separates.
Pesto can easily be FROZEN for long term storage. There are two ways to do it:
- For single servings (recommended), freeze it in ice cube trays, then store frozen pesto cubes in a plastic freezer bag in the freezer for up to 6 months.
- For larger servings, put the pesto in small jars or plastic containers and store in the freezer for 9-12 months.
We absolutely love this no-cook sauce and make it time and time again! It’s so quick, easy and simple- perfect for weeknight dinners or meals on the go!
Use your homemade pesto in these recipes:
- Pesto Chicken Meatballs
- Chicken Pesto Pizza
- Spring Pesto Tortellini
- Kale Spinach and Basil Pesto Baked Pasta
Basil Pesto Recipe
- 2 cup basil leaves - fresh, packed
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts - OR walnuts, pecans, or pistachios
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter - melted and cool to the touch
- 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- squeeze lemon juice - fresh
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese - OR pecorino cheese, grated
- In a food processor or blender, layer the ingredients starting with the basil, then the garlic, toasted nuts, 1/4 c. of the olive oil and the butter. Pulse/blend until a coarse mixture forms, then add the remaining 1/4 c. of olive oil along with the salt and pepper, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and the cheese. You can also set the cheese aside to be added at the very end. Continue to pulse/blend until smooth, then pour the pesto into a bowl and (fold in the grated cheese if reserved) toss with freshly cooked pasta. Serve immediately.