Homemade basil pesto is so easy to make and tastes delicious on pasta or paired with grilled meats. It is a versatile sauce that’s made from a handful of simple ingredients.
If you are growing fresh basil in your garden, then you are like me, too much basil and need to use it!
I decided to start 4 small basil plants in a pot in late May. Store-bought basil leaves cost about 4 dollars! That’s crazy.
I hope that you also think it is crazy and have started your own garden…whatever it may be.
So here I’ve got too much basil and need to use it. Homemade Basil Pesto Pasta Sauce! It is super easy to make and tastes so fresh when you mix it with your favorite pasta.
Ingredients For Homemade Basil Pesto
I went out to the deck where my plants are and grabbed two big handfuls of basil leaves, about 2 packed cups. Basil is easy to grow in your garden or patio containers.
That didn’t even make much of a dent in the leaves on the plants. Still lots more for salads or pizza!
You will also need:
- Garlic cloves
- Walnuts or Pine nuts*
- Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano cheese
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil*
- Lemon Juice
- Salt and Pepper
*Making pesto is the time to use the best olive oil for the greatest flavor.
*You may also make nut-free pesto if desired.
The full ingredients and amounts needed are in the recipe card below.
Making Homemade Pesto Is So Easy In A Food Processor
I have used my little 3 1/2 cup Kitchen Aid food processor for making pesto. It is a little workhorse in my kitchen. Powerful but inexpensive.
In retrospect, a larger food processor would be more efficient. The pesto made in the top photo was made in my 14-cup Cuisinart processor.
Place the basil, walnuts, and chopped fresh garlic into the processor bowl and turn the machine on until you get a fine chop on the leaves. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if some of the leaves stick.
Then, mix the grated cheese, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to combine fully.
Next, add the olive oil slowly with the processor running. If your cover has a weephole in the top, add the oil through that.
Open the top to check the consistency of the pesto. It should be loose and creamy. Give it a taste and you should have a pronounced earthy olive oil flavor. Add a bit more oil if it seems too dry. I find that if there is a thin layer of olive oil on the surface of the pesto sauce, that is ideal.
Mixing this up only takes 5 or 10 minutes and it tastes fantastic.
Storing Leftover Pesto
Use the homemade basil pesto right away. You can store leftover pesto, refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Since it is made with fresh basil leaves and perishable fresh ingredients it will start to age and go bad.
If you wish to make some pesto sauce and freeze it for later use, you can save it in a small jar or a ziplock bag. It should keep for 2 or 3 months.
You may want to freeze it in smaller containers with 4 or 5 tablespoons of pesto in each. That way you will have workable servings to use without having to thaw a large batch.
Along with topping pasta with pesto, it can be used in lots of ways.
- Serve it alongside sauteed shrimp or other seafood.
- Make homemade pesto pizza rather than using a red sauce. It pairs well with additional cheese and pizza toppings.
- Use as a spread on a toasted baguette then top with Parmesan cheese.
- As a dipping sauce for fresh bread or breadsticks.
- Serve the pesto with grilled meats. It is a great flavor enhancer for beef, chicken, or pork. Adding a little bit of red pepper flakes will further accent grilled meat.
- Use fresh pesto as a salad dressing with some more grated hard cheese for extra flavor.
The easy steps to making this are in the printable recipe card below.
Easy Classic Fresh Homemade Basil Pesto Recipe
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 3 cloves garlic , coarsely chopped
- 1/3 cup walnuts , (pine nuts could also be used)
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese , (I used Romano)
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. Fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- Place basil, garlic, and nuts in a food processor and pulse to chop. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary.
- Add the cheese, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and pulse until incorporated,
- Slowly add the oil while the processor is on and puree until smooth. Use the weep hole on the cover if it has one. Open the cover and taste and check the consistency of the pesto. It should have a pronounced EVOO flavor and a creamy texture. Add more oil if necessary.
- Stir into pasta of your choice. I used about 4 tbsp. for 8 ounces of pasta. Reserve some of the pasta water to thin the pesto a bit when combined with the pasta.
- If serving over pasta, reserve some of the pasta water to thin the sauce if necessary.
- Nutrition information based on a 2-tablespoon serving of the pesto only.