This homemade basil pesto is made with a handful of fresh and flavorful ingredients. Quick and versatile, pesto can be used in a variety of recipes like my sausage & garlic pesto flatbread, pesto shrimp, or mixed with cooked pasta, roasted vegetables, spread on sandwiches, artisan bread, and more. And, as a bonus, this from-scratch pesto is much easier than you think and tastes worlds better than store-bought.
This homemade basil pesto is my absolute favorite. It’s classic, simple, flavorful, and completely fresh. You’ll appreciate how easily it comes together and that it tastes infinitely better than store-bought versions. Homemade pesto can be a dip, sauce, or spread and pairs wonderfully with so many flavors. Bottom line? Pesto is an easy way to instantly elevate any savory dish.
This Homemade Basil Pesto Is:
- Fresh and flavorful
- Incredibly versatile
- Ready in minutes
- Made with just a few ingredients
- Easy to customize with what you have on hand
- Extra flavorful with roasted garlic
Overview: Ingredients In Homemade Basil Pesto
For ingredient substitutions, see my recipe notes.
- Basil: Fresh basil leaves are the base of this pesto recipe. Rinse and pat dry before using.
- Pine Nuts: Pine nuts add structure to the pesto. If I’m having trouble finding pine nuts, sometimes I’ll swap them for walnuts, pistachios, or almonds. For a nut-free version, try cooked and cooled edamame, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, or sunflower seeds.
- Parmesan Cheese: Parmesan cheese adds a little saltiness and helps the pesto stick together. It’s honestly the best part.
- Garlic: It goes without saying that garlic adds incredible flavor to homemade pesto. 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 helps create an unbeatable creamy and rich consistency.
- Lemon Juice: 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice brightens everything up and really helps the other flavors shine. Many recipes don’t call for it, but I highly recommend it. Trust me on this one!
- 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, which–besides its incredible taste and versatility– is another bonus. You need a food processor or blender to begin. The ingredients blend together rather easily, so if you don’t have a fancy food processor, don’t worry. 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. Add the olive oil and pulse/process to blend. 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
If you need inspiration, here are the ways I enjoy using basil pesto:
- Pesto Tortellini: Use as a sauce over cooked tortellini with parmesan cheese and fresh diced tomatoes.
- Shrimp: Try my creamy pesto shrimp dinner recipe– it’s quick!
- 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 diced fresh tomatoes.
- Stuffed Peppers: Use pesto in my sausage stuffed peppers recipe instead of the chicken broth. (Same amount– tastes fantastic.)
- 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. (3 Tbsp total.) Top each with a light layer of shredded cheese, herbs, and/or chopped pepperoni.
- Pesto Sandwich: Spread pesto 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.
- 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 cooked meats or shrimp.
This is how I make classic basil pesto at home. It’s incredibly simple and flavorful and uses only 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
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Pulse the basil, pine nuts, cheese, and garlic together in a food processor or blender. Scrape down the sides, then add the oil, lemon juice, and salt. Pulse until everything is blended together and relatively smooth. Taste and add pepper (and/or more salt) if desired. I always add a pinch of pepper.
- Store leftover pesto in a jar or sealable container, tightly seal, and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
- Freezing Instructions: 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.
- Basil or Other Greens: Instead of basil, try other greens like spinach, kale, or arugula. No matter which greens you choose, rinse and pat dry before using.
- Nuts: If I’m having trouble finding pine nuts, sometimes I’ll swap them for walnuts, pistachios, or almonds. For a nut-free version, try cooked and cooled 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