You only need a handful of fresh ingredients for homemade basil pesto. This simple and flavorful from scratch pesto recipe is much easier to make than you think! Use it on pizza, pasta, in wraps, as a dip, and more. See my recipe notes for helpful ingredient substitutions.
Today’s homemade basil pesto recipe is my absolute favorite. It’s classic, simple, flavorful, and oh-so-fresh! I appreciate how quickly and easily it comes together, and it tastes infinitely better than store-bought versions. Homemade pesto pairs wonderfully with so many flavors– this versatile sauce instantly elevates any savory dish. Let’s get started!
This Homemade Basil Pesto Is:
- Fresh and flavorful
- Incredibly versatile
- Super easy to make
- Ready in minutes
- Made with just a few ingredients
- Easy to customize with what you have on hand
- Extra flavorful with roasted garlic
Ingredients In Homemade Basil Pesto
You’ll need just a few basic ingredients for this pesto recipe. For more ingredient substitutions, see my recipe notes.
- Basil: Basil leaves are the base of this pesto recipe.
- Pine Nuts: Pine nuts add structure to the pesto. Instead of pine nuts, I love using walnuts. You can also try pecans, pistachios, or almonds. For a nut-free version, try edamame, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, or sunflower seeds.
- Parmesan Cheese: Parmesan cheese adds a welcome saltiness and helps the pesto stick together.
- Garlic: Garlic adds incredible flavor. For even more flavor, try using roasted garlic. (Here’s how to roast garlic.)
- Olive Oil: Not only does olive oil add flavor, it also creates the pesto’s delicious texture.
- Lemon Juice: 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice brightens everything up and really helps the flavors shine.
- Salt & Pepper: Both add flavor.
Make it your own: For a twist, try adding your favorite herbs like cilantro, mint, or parsley, your favorite spices like cayenne, ground ginger, or paprika, or add a dash of your favorite hot sauce.
Overview: How to Make Homemade Pesto
Basil pesto comes together in a matter of minutes– you’ll need a food processor (or blender) to begin. The ingredients blend together rather easily, so if you don’t have a fancy food processor, no worries! It will still taste like pesto and it will still be remarkably good. You can’t go wrong. (Pesto is really that easy.)
Blend the basil, pine nuts, cheese, and garlic together in a food processor or blender. Slowly pour in the olive oil while still mixing. Scrape down the sides of the blender bowl, then add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Pulse this mixture until everything is blended together and relatively smooth. Taste and add more seasoning and any extra herbs/spices, if desired.
How To Use Homemade Pesto
Basil pesto is my favorite multi-purpose sauce. Its nutty, cheesy, and garlicky flavor goes with just about anything! Stumped for ways to use it? Here are ways I enjoy pesto:
- Pesto Tortellini: Use as a sauce over cooked tortellini with parmesan cheese and fresh diced tomatoes.
- Pesto Pizza: Use it in place of pizza sauce on pizza crust. Try my sausage & garlic pesto flatbread or my roasted garlic chicken pesto pizza!
- Pesto Bruschetta: Bake slices of a fresh baguette in a 400°F (204°C) oven until golden. Top with pesto, parmesan cheese, and fresh diced tomatoes.
- Pesto Star Bread: Use my star bread recipe and reduce the amount of sugar in the dough to 1 Tablespoon. Spread 1 heaping Tablespoon of pesto onto each of the 3 circles. Top each with a light layer of shredded cheese, herbs, and/or chopped pepperoni.
- Pesto Sandwich: Spread pesto mixed with mayonnaise on toasted bread, add your favorite cheese, greens, and tomato.
- Pesto Grilled Cheese: Brush 2 slices of thick-cut crusty bread (like artisan bread) with pesto, add provolone or cheddar cheese, butter the outside of the bread, and cook both sides on a griddle or skillet until golden brown.
- Pesto Hummus: Blend 2 Tablespoons of pesto with garlic hummus.
- As a Dip: Use it as a dip for crusty bread.
- With Meats or Shrimp: Serve over meats or shrimp.
Here is how I make classic basil pesto at home. It’s incredibly simple and flavorful, while only using a handful of fresh ingredients.
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves*
- 1/3 cup pine nuts*
- 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 3 cloves garlic (roasted or fresh)
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional but recommended)
- 1/2 teaspoon each salt and fresh ground pepper
- Blend the basil, pine nuts, cheese, and garlic together in a food processor or blender. Pour oil in slowly while still mixing (or a little at a time, then mix, then more oil, then mix again, etc). Scrape down the sides, then add lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Pulse until everything is blended together and relatively smooth. Taste and add more salt/pepper if desired.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Store leftover pesto in a jar, tightly seal, and refrigerate for up to a week. Freeze the pesto for up to 2-3 months. You can freeze it in greased ice cube trays and thaw small portions at a time.
- Other Greens: Instead of basil, try other greens like spinach, kale, or arugula.
- Nuts: Instead of pine nuts, I love using walnuts. You can also try pecans, pistachios, or almonds. For a nut-free pesto, try edamame, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, or sunflower seeds.
- Other Pesto Variations: Try adding your favorite herbs like cilantro, mint, or parsley. Add your favorite spices like cayenne, ground ginger, or paprika. Or add a dash of your favorite hot sauce.
Keywords: homemade basil pesto, how to make basil pesto