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Homemade Basil Pesto

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Homemade basil pesto is a rich, classic Italian sauce that's big on flavour, and only takes minutes to make! It's a fresh, bright addition to any summer meal.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 18 minutes
A tall jar of homemade basil pesto.

There are a million recipes out there for homemade basil pesto — maybe more! But I love it so much, and I was making a batch, so why not share?

I’m a clumsy person — partly because I move too fast, and partly because I’m tall (5 feet 11 inches). I recently dropped my KitchenAid food processor and broke it, so these days I’m relying on my handy dandy immersion blender! That’s what I used for this recipe.

I use my immersion blender for so many things — puréeing soups, blending sauces, and emulsifying homemade mayo in seconds. A bit clunkier than a traditional blender or food processor, this tiny workhorse still gets the job done! Use any of the three appliances mentioned to make this pesto, or if you’re feeling super ambitious, do it the old school way by hand using a mortar and pestle.

In most homemade basil pesto recipes I’ve seen, olive oil is slowly drizzled into the pesto as the food processor runs. Not here! I added all of the olive oil at once, blended it for about 10 seconds, and the results were terrific. This is a fast, no fuss recipe, which can be ready in under 20 minutes.

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A bowl of homemade basil pesto with a spoon in the bowl on a striped tablecloth.

Ingredients

Ingredients to make homemade basil pesto.

Step-By-Step Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Spread the pine nuts on a baking sheet. Place the pine nuts in the oven and toast them until lightly golden and fragrant, about 7 to 9 minutes. Shake the pan halfway through toasting. Set aside to cool.

Grate the Parmesan cheese if needed. Set aside.

A small round metal tray with grated Parmesan cheese inside.

Tear the basil leaves and stems then place them inside a large tall jar (you may need to do this in a few batches as the basil probably won’t fit all at once).

A glass jar filled with fresh basil leaves.

Pulse the basil with an immersion blender until the leaves are somewhat puréed.

A jar of puréed basil leaves.

Add the Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, garlic, and flaky salt to the jar.

Process everything together until coarse and chunky.

A jar of green sauce before the olive oil is added.

Add the olive oil to the jar.

Unmixed green pesto in a glass jar.

Blend the pesto with the immersion blender 5 to 10 seconds more, then taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking. Spoon the pesto into a clean, smaller jar and store it in the fridge, sealed with an airtight lid, for up to one week.

Overhead close up of a jar of homemade basil pesto.

Notes & Tips

I used an immersion blender for this recipe, however, use a food processor or blender if that’s what you have!

I generally make homemade basil pesto in the summertime when I’m growing my own herbs. 120 grams of basil may not sound like a lot but it can get expensive if you’re buying basil at the grocery store.

Use both basil leaves and stems — they taste the same!

You don’t have to toast the pine nuts, however, toasting adds an extra level of flavour which I think is worth it and I recommend doing.

I use flaky salt in this recipe, not to be bougie, but to enhance the other ingredients, because, let’s get real, pesto isn’t cheap to make. When I splurge on a boatload of basil, real Parm, and pine nuts, I might as well use good salt.

I use one smallish clove of garlic in this recipe as I find larger cloves can overpower the other flavours. Use whichever size of clove or amount of garlic you like.

If your pesto seems too thick, add olive oil by the teaspoon to loosen it, up to 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) depending on your preference.

Store homemade basil pesto in a glass or plastic container with a tight fitting lid in the fridge for up to one week.

You can freeze homemade basil pesto! My favourite method is to spoon pesto into a clean ice cube tray. Freeze the pesto, pop out the cubes, and store them in a sealed zip top bag for up to three months. To use, simply add frozen cube(s) to whatever dish you’re making, heat through to melt, and stir.

Homemade basil pesto in a bowl next to the jar it was made in. The jar has a spoon inside.

Substitutions

Pine nuts are expensive, no question. Replace them with toasted almonds, pecans, or even toasted seeds (sunflower or pumpkin seeds are great) if you like.

Basil can be substituted with most greens, but note the flavour will change completley. I have a recipe for spinach arugula pesto which is very good!

Parmesan cheese can be replaced with Pecorino, Grana Padano, or any other hard grated cheese you like.

If you don’t have or can’t find a good quality flaky sea salt, use kosher salt flakes or any other flaky salt from the grocery store.

I love the strong flavour of good olive oil in homemade basil pesto. If you don’t, replace some of the olive oil with a neutral-tasting oil like vegetable or canola.

Macro image of a bowl of homemade basil pesto.

Use Homemade Basil Pesto With These Recipes

Buttermilk Quiche With Ham, Cheddar, & Chives

Orzo Pesto Salad With Tomatoes & Fresh Mozzarella

Fresh Spelt Pasta

Printable Recipe Card

A tall jar of homemade basil pesto.

Homemade Basil Pesto

Author: Kelly Neil
Homemade basil pesto is a rich, classic Italian sauce that's big on flavour, and only takes minutes to make! It's a fresh, bright addition to any summer meal.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 18 minutes
Course Summer
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8 servings
Calories 231 kcal

Special Equipment

  • Baking sheet
  • Parchment paper
  • Cheese grater
  • Large, skinny, tall jar
  • Immersion blender if not using a regular blender
  • High-speed blender if not using an immersion blender
  • Glass jar with lid for storage optional
Need Metric Measurements?Use the button options below to toggle between US cups and Metric grams.

Ingredients
 
 

  • ¾ cup pine nuts
  • 6 cups fresh basil , leaves and stems
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon flaky salt, to taste
  • 1 small garlic clove, end trimmed, peeled
  • cup olive oil

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the pine nuts out into an even layer. Place the pine nuts in the preheated oven and toast them until they are light gold and fragrant, about 7 to 9 minutes. Shake the pan halfway through toasting. Set aside to cool.
  • Tear the basil leaves and stems and place them inside a large tall jar, food processor, or blender. (if using a jar and a handheld immersion blender you may need to do this in a few batches as the basil may not fit all at once). Pulse the basil a few times to start breaking down the leaves.
  • Add the toasted pine nuts, grated Parmesan cheese, garlic clove, and ¼ teaspoon of flaky salt to the jar. Process everything together until the mixture is coarse and chunky.
  • Add the olive oil and blend the pesto for 5 to 10 seconds more. Taste and adjust the seasoning and/or add more salt to your liking. Spoon the pesto into a small clean jar and store it in the fridge, sealed with an airtight lid, for up to one week.

Recipe Notes

I used an immersion blender for this recipe, however, use a food processor or blender if that’s what you have.
I generally make homemade basil pesto in the summertime when I’m growing my own herbs. 120 grams of basil may not sound like a lot but it can get expensive if you’re buying basil at the grocery store.
Use both basil leaves and stems—they taste the same!
You don’t have to toast the pine nuts, however, toasting adds an extra level of flavour which I think is worth it. 
I like to use a good quality flaky sea salt in this recipe. 
I use one small clove of garlic in this recipe as I find larger cloves can overpower the other flavours. If you only have larger cloves of garlic, I recommend slicing one clove in half then adding more to suit your preference.
If your pesto seems too thick, add olive oil by the teaspoon to loosen it.
Store homemade basil pesto in a glass or plastic container with a tight fitting lid in the fridge for up to one week.
You can freeze homemade basil pesto! My favourite method is to spoon pesto into a clean ice cube tray. Freeze the pesto, pop out the cubes, and store them in a sealed zip top bag for up to three months. To use, simply add frozen cube(s) to whatever dish you’re making, heat through to melt, and stir.

Substitutions

Pine nuts are expensive, no question. Replace them with toasted almonds, pecans, or even toasted seeds like sunflower or pumpkin seeds if you like.
Basil can be substituted with most greens, however, the flavour will change. I have a recipe for spinach arugula pesto which is very good.
Parmesan cheese can be replaced with Pecorino, Grana Padano, or any other hard grated cheese you like.
If you don’t have or can’t find a good quality flaky sea salt, use kosher salt flakes or any other flaky salt from the grocery store.
I love the strong flavour of a good olive oil. If you don’t, replace some of the olive oil with a neutral-tasting oil like vegetable or canola.

Nutrition

Serving: 45gCalories: 231kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 7gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 286mgPotassium: 150mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 1110IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 193mgIron: 2mg
Did you make this recipe?Let me know on Instagram @kellyneildotcom or tag #kellyneil!

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