The Best Basil Pesto Recipe (and Tips) (2024)

Basil Pesto is simple enough to make but this recipe for the BEST Basil Pesto has a few tricks that make it absolutely outstanding. Quick, easy and freezer friendly, blend up a big batch to take you through the winter months.

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Basil Pesto

I have a little secret…..I’m a terrible gardener. To be more specific, I’m a terrible vegetable gardener and I’m going to blame my husband for the poorly selected plot of land I was allowed to try my hand at gardening with. (I promise this is related to Basil Pesto….just bear with me.) 🙂

For my very first “in the ground” vegetable garden he gave me a small area next to a fence on the south side of the house….which would be fine if only the house didn’t block the morning sun…..and a large group of trees didn’t block the afternoon sun. And then the late afternoon sun is blocked, yet again, by that fence I mentioned before.

I knew before I plunged the shovel into the dirt to break ground for my vegetable garden that this was going to be a lost cause but I forged ahead….for the past two summers. I got a couple cucumbers, a dead zucchini plant, a two inch carrot, TONS of kale (I hate kale) and a boatload of green tomatoes.

My garden haul was the leverage I needed to convince him that I needed a new spot for my garden next year and the fact that my herb garden is always overloaded with fresh herbs because it’s in a VERY sunny spot was the clincher. I have a landscaper plotting out next years garden as we “speak.”

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Since I do very well in the herb gardening area, I always have a TON of fresh basil. The thing about basil is you need to stay on top of it or it will go to seed. Pinching off the ends to ensure it doesn’t flower and then die off is something I do several times a week. And also…..I make tons of Basil Pesto from scratch.

It’s a surefire way to use up what otherwise would just go to waste. And making big batches of it to freeze helps me have a little taste of summer in the middle of winter.

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What Is Pesto

Basil Pesto, also called Pesto Genovese, is a flavorful sauce made with fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese. There are several variations of basil pesto, sometimes I like to add crushed red pepper to make it a little spicy.

There are plenty of store bought pesto sauces on the market but once you make it at home, nothing else will ever compare.

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How To Make Fresh Pesto

Fresh Basil Pesto from scratch is so easy to make. Place all the ingredients, basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and cheese in a food processor or blender and process until finely chopped and a loose sauce begins to form. I like to leave it a little chunkier so it doesn’t form a paste but other recipes process until a paste begins to form.

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How To Freeze It

Making big batches of Homemade Basil Pesto and freezing it is one of my favorite things to do with it. It’s a great way to meal prep your way through the winter months.

To freeze your pesto, fill up the wells of ice cube trays and place in the freezer. Freeze until firm, then pop the frozen sauce out of the tray. Place the Basil Pesto Sauce cubes into a freezer bag and store in the freezer until ready to use.

To thaw, simply place in a saucepan over low heat and thaw, stirring occasionally or heat in the microwave until thawed.

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How To Make It From Scratch

With these simple tips, you can make the Best Basil Pesto in just 5 minutes:

  • To maximize the flavor of your pesto, toast the pine nuts for a few minutes (be sure not to burn them) until golden. This step makes them a bit more buttery than raw pine nuts.
  • Lemon….I know it’s not traditional but I like the bright, fresh flavor lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice give the pesto….and it helps keep the green color vibrant by preventing oxidation.
  • Process in batches….I do half the ingredients in the food processor and process until very finely chopped….almost paste like, THEN I add the remaining ingredients to the processor and pulse so there are larger pieces of ingredients thought out the sauce. Bigger pieces means BIGGER flavor!
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Recipes Using Basil Pesto

I love to use the Basil Pesto sauce in soooo many recipes like this super easy Caprese Tortellini Salad and this AHHHMAZING Grilled Chicken recipe. It’s so totally easy and extra cheesy….a big hit with the kids!

  • Basil Pesto Grilled Chicken Thighs
  • Pesto Artichoke Stuffed Manicotti
  • Grilled Chicken Pesto Sandwich
  • Grilled Pesto Salmon with Strawberry Cucumber Salsa
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It’s also fantastic as a sandwich spread like in this Chicken Cutlet Sandwich or these super simple Meatball Sliders….both great recipes for game day!

More Easy Pesto Recipes

  • Walnut Arugula Pesto
  • Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
  • Easy Radish Green Pesto

Want to see what else we have NOT growing in our garden…..check us out on Instagram!

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Get the Recipe:The Very Best Basil Pesto Recipe

Yield: 12

Prep Time: 5 minutes mins

Total Time: 5 minutes mins

Made with garden fresh basil, this Basil Pesto Recipe is simple to make in just a few minutes with very minimal prep work.

5 from 80 votes

Print Recipe Rate Recipe Pin Recipe


  • 4 ounces pine nuts
  • 4 cups fresh basil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup coarsely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste


  • Add the pine nuts to a small skillet over medium heat and toast until golden brown, approximately 2-3 minutes. Set aside.

  • In the bowl of a food processor, add 1/2 the pine nuts, 3 cups basil, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup cheese and lemon zest. Process the ingredients for approximately 30 seconds or until the ingredients are finely chopped.

  • While the food processor is still running on low speed, slowly drizzle in 3/4 cup of olive oil and continue processing until a smooth paste begins to form. Stop the food processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

  • Add the remaining pine nuts, basil, garlic and cheese to the bowl. Pulse the ingredients until finely chopped.

  • Using a rubber spatula, transfer the pesto sauce to a bowl and stir in the remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

  • Store the basil pesto sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


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To keep the pesto sauce from oxidizing, top it with a thin layer of olive oil.

Calories: 115kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 5mg, Sodium: 134mg, Potassium: 90mg, Fiber: 0g, Sugar: 0g, Vitamin A: 485IU, Vitamin C: 2.4mg, Calcium: 116mg, Iron: 0.8mg

Author: Kellie

Course: Condiment, sauce

Cuisine: Italian

The Best Basil Pesto Recipe (and Tips) (2024)
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