Sauces

Basic Basil Pesto

Basic Basil Pesto is a cooking staple that is bursting with fresh flavor. Learn tips and tricks for creating easy pesto for delicious and healthy meals.

Is there anything that tastes fresher than basil pesto? It’s like the flavor version of the color “green”. While you can buy great pesto at the grocery store, it’s actually quite simple to make, and definitely worth the effort. Basic pesto is a staple in our rotation of Easy Weeknight Dinners and one of the things that help keep our healthy eating on track!

a white bowl of green basic basil pesto with basil leaves

Classic Basil Pesto Recipe

Classic Basil Pesto is made with only six simple ingredients: fresh basil, pine nuts, olive oil, grated Parmesan-Reggiano, minced garlic, and sea salt.

A Trick for Even More Flavor

One trick I use to make my classic basil pesto even more flavorful is toasting the pine nuts ahead of time. To do this, you preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then, you simply spread the pine nuts flat on a baking sheet, put them in the oven. They will toast in their own oils for about five minutes, or until they’re golden in color.

classic basil pesto

How to Make Basil Pesto

One piece of equipment that is recommended is a food processor. It makes the process much simpler and also ensures that the pesto is properly blended. Add your cooled pine nuts to the food processor. Next, add your grated Parmesan-Reggiano, minced garlic, and sea salt. Pulse together until combined.

Next, add the basil. Turn your processor on to low, and slowly add your oil in while the motor is still running. Continue to combine until the sauce appears smooth.

fresh pesto with basil

How to Store Pesto

You can make basil pesto ahead of time and store it in the fridge overnight. You’ll have to add a thin layer of oil over the top to keep the pesto from browning. Then store in an airtight container or cover with a tight layer of plastic wrap.

You can also freeze pesto, but it’s recommended that you don’t add the cheese until you’re ready to cook. To freeze, use a silicone ice cube tray, and then transfer the cubes to an air-tight plastic bag once they’re frozen.

Ideas for Serving Basil Pesto

Pesto Pasta

Classic Pesto Pasta

The classic way to serve pesto is as a pasta sauce. If you’re planning to make pesto pasta, reserve about 2/3 cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Toss pasta with 1/3 cup of liquid, 2 tbsp of butter, and coat evenly with pesto. The liquid keeps the pasta from drying out. You can add additional liquid as needed.

Spiralized Veggie Pesto Primavera

Spiralized Veggie Pesto Primavera

A lighter and grain-free option is to serve Spiralized Veggie Primavera coated in pesto. To create the Primavera, I sauté spiralized zucchini and summer squash with sliced onion and peppers and a tablespoon of oil. Then, I toss the sauteed Primavera with pesto and garnish with a bit of grated Parmesan-Reggiano. It’s a light and delicious meal or side!

Baked chicken with pesto

Easy Sheet Pan Pesto Chicken

This recipe is extremely quick and simple to make but is a family favorite for us. The pesto adds the perfect amount of flavor. The best part is that the whole meal can be made using only one sheet pan!

There are many other uses for basil pesto, like as a sandwich spread or to coat roasted veggies. The sky is the limit! I hope you enjoy this recipe.

Basil Pesto

A classic fresh sauce made with basil and pine nuts.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Pesto
Servings: 1 cup

Equipment

  • Food Processor

Ingredients

  • cup pine nuts
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • ¾ cup Parmesan-Reggiano cheese grated
  • 4 cups basil leaves packed
  • ¾ cup olive oil extra virgin
  • ½ tsp sea salt more if needed

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Spread pine nuts over a baking sheet. Toast in preheated oven for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool.
  • Add cooled pine nuts to the bowl of your food processor along with minced garlic and grated cheese. Pulse until combined.
  • Add your basil leaves.
  • Turn your food processor on to low and slowly pour in the oil with the motor running until the sauce is smooth.
  • Garnish with salt.

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Classic Basil Pesto

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