How to Make Basil Pesto Sauce

Prep Time 10 mins
Total Time 10 mins

This easy Homemade Basil Pesto Sauce is made with basil, parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts and more. This classic and flavorful condiment will turn any meal into instant comfort food!

Pesto in a glass bowl with sliced almonds on top.

An Easy Classic Pesto Recipe

You only need 15 minutes to make the best basil pesto sauce ever. You can easily customize it to satisfy your taste. The fresh, nutty flavor in this condiment is unmatched! You’ll be making it regularly for pasta, pizza and more of your favorite meals.

What is Pesto Sauce?

Pesto sauce is a basil-based sauced made with grated parmesan and pine nuts. This version includes spinach as well. One of the best things about pesto sauce is that there are tons of ways to change it up if you’d like. You can use kale, walnuts, almonds, different herbs or even add nutritional yeast. Pesto sauce is hard to mess up. It’s perfect for picky eaters and lovers of bold flavor alike!

ingredients for homemade pesto in glass jars.

Pesto Ingredients

You only need a few ingredients to make homemade pesto:

  • Fresh Basil Leaves
  • Fresh Spinach
  • Grated Parmesan: You can also use grated Romano cheese for a slightly stronger flavor.
  • Olive Oil
  • Pine Nuts: If desired, you can substitute with walnuts or almonds, too.
  • Garlic Cloves
  • Salt & Pepper

I don’t have pine nuts, what can I use instead?

Pine nuts are a very mild and creamy nut. You can also use walnuts or almonds in place of the pine nuts and get a very similar result!

Can you skip the fresh spinach?

Yes, you can use just basil! It’s a personal choice and neither way is incorrect! I like to use 75% basil and 25% spinach. The spinach adds some great nutrients, but you can not taste it!

Parmesan cheese shaved in a glass jar.

How to Make Pesto

  1. Toast Pine Nuts: Toast your nuts in a small skillet on medium heat until golden and slightly brown. Allow nuts to cool before proceeding.
  2. Combine Nuts, Basil & Spinach: In a food processor, pulse basil, spinach and toasted nuts. Be sure not to over-blend.
  3. Add Seasonings: Add the garlic, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and pulse several times more. Scrape down the sides of your bowl with a rubber spatula.
  4. Pour in Olive Oil: Slowly pour in the olive oil while the food processor is on and occasionally stop to scrape down the sides of your bowl once more, as needed.
Homemade pesto in a pan being pureed.
Tips for the Best Pesto Sauce

  • Don’t Over-Blend: Pesto tastes amazing with a bit of texture, so be sure you don’t pulse the basil, spinach and pine nuts for too long. You don’t want to let the mixture get pasty, especially since you will be blending in the other ingredients.
  • Add Oil While Food Processor is Running: Make sure your food processor is on while you add the olive oil so it mixes in nicely. Set it to low and pour the oil in slowly.
  • Use Romano Cheese for Bolder Flavor: Pesto is traditionally made with Parmesan, but some people prefer the stronger flavor of Romano cheese. Try it both ways!
  • Season to Taste: Don’t be afraid to taste test your pesto to make sure you’re satisfied with the amount of salt & pepper you added!
Homemade pesto with a spoon.

Recipe Variations

  • Use Other Nuts: If you have a favorite kind of nut, go ahead and use it in your pesto. Pesto tastes great with walnuts and almonds as well!
  • Or Don’t Use Any Nuts: If you have a nut allergy, feel free to use pumpkin seeds or hemp seeds in place of pine nuts. 
  • Add More Herbs: You can substitute the spinach & basil or add other herbs if you’d like. Use cilantro, kale, parsley, arugula, or anything you like the taste of! Don’t be afraid to throw the stems in there too, as everything will get blended together anyway.
  • Seasoning Ideas: To give your pesto some heat, add jalapeños or crushed red pepper flakes. You can also make it more flavorful by adding sun dried tomatoes or artichoke hearts.
Pesto in a glass jar on parchment paper with a spoon.

How to Use Pesto Sauce

There are endless ways to use pesto in your cooking. My favorite is as a dip on chicken or in my favorite Caprese Stuffed Avocados! Here are some tasty ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • In Pizza: Substitute tomato sauce for homemade pesto to change up your pizza night routine.
  • On Pasta: Pasta smothered in pesto sauce is comfort food at its finest. Some of my favorite versions are this Spinach Pesto Pasta and my Creamy Pasta with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes.
  • Baked into Bread: Try rolling some of this pesto sauce into my Easy Homemade Bread before you bake it!
  • Added to Other Sauces: You can even mix your pesto sauce into other sauces or salad dressings for added flavor. Toss it in this Alfredo Sauce for a creamy pesto pasta dish!
Pesto being spread on a piece of bread.

How to Store Homemade Pesto

Your pesto sauce should always be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This recipe makes 1 cup of pesto, and it will last for up to a week! If you want your pesto sauce to stay bright green, try to limit its exposure to air. You can do this by storing it in a ziploc bag and squeezing out all the air.

Can I Freeze Pesto?

Yes! If you’re planning on freezing your pesto sauce, you’ll need to make it without the cheese. Line plastic wrap over an ice cube tray and pour your pesto into the cavities. Freeze the ice tray until your pesto is completely frozen, then transfer it to a resealable bag. When you’re ready to use the pesto, just defrost it and add in your cheese!

Yield: approximately 1 cup

How to Make Basil Pesto Sauce

Pesto in a glass bowl with sliced almonds on top.

This easy Homemade Basil Pesto Sauce is made with basil, parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts and more. This classic and flavorful condiment will turn any meal into instant comfort food!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup of fresh spinach
  • 2 oz grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (can sub chopped walnuts or almonds)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

    1. Toast pine nuts in a small skillet on medium heat until golden and slightly brown. Allow nuts to cool before proceeding.
    2. In a food processor, pulse basil, spinach and toasted nuts. Be sure not to over blend as some texture is nice to have in the Pesto. Add the garlic, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and pulse several times more. Scrape down the sides of your bowl with a rubber spatula.
    3. Slowly pour in the olive oil while food processor is on and occasionally stop to scrape down the sides of your bowl once more, as needed.

Notes

Store in an airtight container, in the refrigerator, for up to a week.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 253Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 350mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 4g

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Welcome!

Jessica
I'm a trial & error, self taught, sugar addict who thankfully learned how to survive in the kitchen! I am also a wife, mama of 3.
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