Easy Basil Pesto Recipe with Lots of Tips

How to make the best pesto with basil, nuts, garlic, and olive oil. Jump to the Easy Basil Pesto Recipe or read on to see our tips for making it.

How to make easy basil pesto

Pesto is simple to make and a versatile sauce for pasta, meats, or vegetables. We use our food processor, which makes it quick. You can also make it by hand using a mortar and pestle.

Chimichurri RecipeYOU MAY ALSO LIKE: This easy Chimichurri Sauce recipe. Chimichurri is a sauce made with herbs, garlic, vinegar, chili pepper and olive oil. It livens up pretty much anything you throw at it.

We love this homemade pesto recipe and make it often (especially in the summer). It’s quick and easy to make. Let me show you how to make it plus our tips for making it best.

How to Make Our Easy Basil Pesto

Pesto is easy. Throw garlic, nuts, and fresh basil into a food processor then drizzle in olive oil until you have a sauce.

Making the Tastiest Greenest Pesto

To make it best, we’re sharing a few tips learned over the years:

Tip 1: Blanch the basil. I know this sounds a little crazy, but trust me. Blanching basil makes the greenest pesto possible. Have you ever noticed that pesto can brown overtime in the fridge? Or even when you add it to hot pasta? Blanching the pesto prevents this. It locks in the bright green color of the leaves. We blanch basil in our recipe below. If you are not convinced, you can still use the recipe without blanching. It still works.

Blanching the basil.

If you are up for it, blanching is easy. Dunk the basil leaves into boiling water for 5 to 10 seconds then submerge in ice water. Pat the leaves dry and move on to making the pesto.

Tip 2. Turn the garlic into a paste. We love garlic, but are not big fans of biting into a big chunk of it (especially if it’s raw). That’s why we turn the garlic into a paste before adding it to our pesto. To do this, mince the garlic then use the flat side of a knife to scrape the garlic across a cutting board.

Turn the garlic into a paste.

Tip 3: Stir cheese in at the end. A little texture in the sauce is a good thing. We don’t add cheese to the food processor, we make the pesto and then stir in grated parmesan cheese by hand. This keeps some texture in the sauce.

Recipe Substitutions

  • If you cannot find pine nuts, try walnuts instead. They are buttery and work well in pesto. You can also make pesto without nuts. The texture will be different, but the sauce stills taste fresh and delicious.
  • Add more herbs. Add a handful of parsley or mint leaves to our recipe below.
  • Make vegan pesto. Substitute the cheese with a non-dairy cheese or add 2 to 3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is nutty and cheesy.
  • Add greens. Replacing some, if not all, of the basil with spinach, chard, or beet greens is a nice option. We’ve even done this with kale before.

What to do with pesto?

If you’re looking for uses for pesto, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s our favorite things to do with it:

Recipe updated, originally posted August 2013. Since posting this in 2013, we have tweaked the recipe to be more clear. – Adam and Joanne

Easy Basil Pesto Recipe with Lots of Tips

  • PREP
  • COOK
  • TOTAL

This basil pesto recipe won’t turn brown the moment you make it or toss with hot pasta. By quickly blanching the basil, which takes under 10 seconds, we set the basil’s green color and help prevent it from oxidizing over time. It’s an extra step in making pesto, but it doesn’t take long to do. If you prefer to not blanch the basil, you can skip it. Our recipe can be made with fresh or blanched basil.

Makes approximately 1 cup

You Will Need

2 cups fresh basil leaves

1 clove garlic

1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts, lightly toasted

1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for storing

1/2 cup finely grated pecorino or parmesan cheese

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

    Prepare a small bowl of ice water. Bring a small saucepan, filled halfway with salted water, to a boil. Submerge basil leaves in boiling water for 5 to 10 seconds, or until wilted. Then, immediately plunge into ice water to stop cooking. Drain, squeeze to remove excess water then pat dry with a clean dish towel.Recipe Step 1

    Smash and peel the garlic clove then mince. Holding a chef’s knife at an angle, scrape the blade of the knife across the minced garlic. Gather it all together then scrape it against the board again until it becomes a very fine paste.Basil Pesto Recipe

    Combine the garlic paste and the pine nuts in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 2 to 3 times until everything is chopped small. Add basil.

    With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl. Once all the olive oil has been added, check the consistency of the pesto — we like it to have some texture. If you prefer it smoother, pulse a few more times.

    Transfer pesto to a bowl then stir in cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Use immediately or store for later.How to Make Pesto

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • How to Store Pesto in the Refrigerator: Add a thin layer of extra olive oil to the top (to prevent any air from getting to it), cover with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.
  • How to Freeze Pesto: If freezing, leave out the cheese. Fill ice cube trays with pesto, freeze until hard. Then store frozen cubes in freezer-safe plastic bags. Freeze up to 1 month.

If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #inspiredtaste — We love to see your creations on Instagram and Facebook! Find us: @inspiredtaste

AUTHOR: Adam and Joanne Gallagher

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23 comments… Leave a Comment
  • pam September 11, 2016, 4:24 pm

    I blanched then ice water then squeezed water out. Now I only have 2 T of basil for the pesto. The volume is gone. Similiar to cooking spinach. Will this still work?

    Reply
    • Joanne September 14, 2016, 2:29 pm

      Yes, you should be fine. When you blanch the basil, it does wilt down like spinach.

      Reply
  • Ann August 15, 2016, 4:31 pm

    Blanching works beautifully. I would only add that I prefer to get the blanched leaves as dry as possible before putting them in the blender with the other ingredients. I find that the extra moisture waters down the flavor a bit, and makes the pesto a bit creamier than I like.

    To dry the leaves, I open up each large leaf on a towel, pat the leaves dry, and then let them air dry completely. A little time-consuming to be sure, but we’re all looking for the pesto we already know and love.

    We like it with untoasted pine nuts, only the best EVOO and double the garlic!

    Reply
  • Susan July 11, 2016, 7:02 pm

    Just made this tonight. Works GREAT! Stayed green from start to finish. Thank you!

    Reply
  • Janet July 31, 2015, 4:19 pm

    Besides blanching the basil, I add a vitamin C tablet into the blender. Saw a TV chef do this, not real sure if it helps, but the blanching sure does?

    Reply
  • Paula February 21, 2015, 4:48 pm

    Could the basil leaves be frozen after they are blanched? Would they then be suitable for making pesto a month or so later? I had never heard of this technique, but I will certainly try it. My DH could just eat pesto with a spoon, he loves it that much. I do add a squirt of lemon juice to my pesto. It brightens the flavor a little. I use walnuts or pecans instead of pine nuts, which I think taste stale in the pesto. Maybe toasting the pine nuts would make a difference.

    Reply
    • Adam March 2, 2015, 2:09 pm

      If you plan on freezing, we suggest making the pesto first then covering it with a thin layer of oil. That will help prevent discoloration when you freeze.

      Reply
    • Joy August 15, 2015, 2:04 pm

      Joy

      I use the blanching method and it definitely works. I make batches during the summer months and freeze for later. If I’m going to freeze, I mix the pesto, nuts (I use walnuts), garlic, a very small amount of oil, and a touch of lemon juice, but I omit the cheese. I freeze the mixture in small Ball canning jars. Don’t fill the jars all the way to the top – leave room for the pesto to expand when it freezes. I also place a small piece of Saran Wrap on top of the pesto prior to placing it in the freezer. You can also place the mixture in ice cube trays, cover with Saran Wrap and then freeze it. After 24-48 hours, take the pesto cubes out and place in a Ziploc freezer bag, and return to the freezer for individual servings. When I thaw the pesto, I then add additional olive oil and the Parmesan cheese. The cheese just doesn’t freeze well with the other ingredients. My family and I enjoy pesto all winter long!! Enjoy.

      Reply
  • Deborah Gichan August 10, 2014, 3:48 pm

    I have tested many pesto recipes this season while I harvest a good amount of basil. This is by far the best. Toasted the pine nuts and used roasted garlic.
    This will be my go to recipe for sure.

    Reply
  • Melissa Loizou July 8, 2014, 12:45 pm

    So excited to try this. I have made pesto for 20 years now but have noticed it seeming really dry and bitter…I will let you know.

    Reply
  • Anthony Tedeschi April 15, 2014, 11:57 pm

    Your recipe is the best way to make pesto. However, I use extra virgin oil rather than regular
    olive oil. Also, I prefer to brown pine nuts in an oven.

    Recently I used a recipe which called for lemon juice. My instincts told me the end product would not taste as good. It was awful! Perhaps I used too much lemon juice. However, I
    believe it would not be good even with a lesser amount of lemon juice.

    The recipe was poorly written. It called for 1/8 cup of lemon juice or 1 lemon. A recipe should
    always be precise. There small lemons, medium, large and extra large, etc. Take a guess.

    Reply
    • Joanne April 16, 2014, 12:26 pm

      Glad you found us them 🙂 Extra virgin olive oil is a great option for pesto. Lemon juice could work, but we’d probably just spritz a little on whatever we were adding the pesto to. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  • Shayna March 16, 2014, 12:02 pm

    I am making this for work tomorrow. I want to make it a day in advance should I mix with the pasta and then fridge it til tomorrow or keep pasta and pesto separate until tomorrow?

    Reply
    • Joanne March 17, 2014, 2:47 pm

      We’d keep the pasta and pesto separate then mix just before serving.

      Reply
  • Lisandro Retrepo January 11, 2014, 5:35 pm

    Thanks for your recipe. All the tips and information is exactly what I was looking for.

    Reply
  • kat November 16, 2013, 4:40 pm

    My first time making fresh pesto. Followed the directions exactly and it came out delicious!

    Reply
  • The Peace Patch August 28, 2013, 11:38 pm

    Oh it’s gorgeously green…it should be called Emerald City Pesto!
    Thank you so much for the recipe!

    Reply
  • Lisa @ The Meaning of Me August 21, 2013, 1:33 am

    You are so right – this worked like a charm. Just did it with the batch I made tonight and the difference between that and the pesto I made a few days ago is remarkable. Great tip!

    Reply
    • Joanne August 31, 2013, 6:29 pm

      Thanks Lisa! So glad it worked out for you 🙂

      Reply
  • Kelly Senyei | Just a Taste August 17, 2013, 12:59 am

    This is genius! I will absolutely be using this recipe and technique next time I make pesto. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Joanne August 17, 2013, 1:13 pm

      Thanks, Kelly 🙂

      Reply

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