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    Simple Basil Pesto Recipe

    Published February 27, 2020. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

    This delicious classic Italian recipe for basil pesto is the perfect sauce to add to any pasta dish that will take it from boring to the bomb.  The best part is there are only a few ingredients and it takes 15 minutes to make.

    jar full of creamy homemade basil pesto

    I’ve been making this sauce for years and every time I taste it, it’s just as amazing as the last time.  I can’t think of an easier way to enhance the flavor of your food than this and after you make it, you’ll never buy it pre-made again.

    Use it with homemade pasta or even in risotto to greatly improve the taste.  Once you try it there’s no more jarred version ever again.

    What Is it

    Pesto is a simple combination of:

    • Fresh Basil
    • Parmesan Cheese
    • Pine Nuts
    • Garlic
    • Olive Oil
    • Salt and Pepper

    It is incredibly similar to making a chimichurri sauce with different ingredients of course.  It is a slightly thick, slightly basil-based sauce that’s origin begun in Italy.  The classic way to make it would be using a pestle and mortar (<- Aff Link) to finely chop up the basil and garlic.

    The easiest process to make basil pesto nowadays is using a food processor.

    What Does Pesto Taste Like

    It has a strong basil first flavor and is incredibly complemented with cheese, pine nuts, olive oil and a hint of acid from the lemon juice.  The texture is incredibly similar to chimichurri sauce, however, it is a little bit more emulsified.

    Can You Make It Without Pine Nuts

    Yes, if for some reason you are allergic to nuts or just don’t like the taste of pine nuts you can simply remove them from this recipe.  By taking them out of the pesto, the name of the recipe changes to, Pistou.

    How to Make It

    Follow these brief instructions for how to make pesto:

    Toast the pine nuts over low heat until lightly browned in color.

    toasting pine nuts in a pan

    Pick the fresh basil leaves away from the stems.

    picking fresh basil leaves

    Add the basil, garlic cloves, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and lemon juice to a food processor.

    pine nuts and cheese with basil in a food processor

    Pulse it on high speed just until finely chopped, which takes about 12-15 pulses.

    finely chopped herbs in a processor

    Season with salt and pepper and add in grated pecorino romano.

    adding cheese to a food processor

    Continue to pulse on high speed while slowly drizzling in olive oil

    adding olive oil to pesto in a processor

    What Is It Used For

    It can be used in a number of different ways but is most popularly used in pasta, rice dishes, as a marinade or a sauce for chicken, seafood, pork or beef.  Here are a few of my favorite recipes using it:

    Recipe Chef Notes + Tips

    How to Store: This will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.  It freezes extremely well for up to 3 months.  My suggestion, like in my sofrito recipe, would be to separate the sauce into silicone trays when freezing so you can pull out as little or as much as you’d like.

    You do not have to toast the pine nuts, but it greatly enhances the flavor of the pesto by doing so.

    This recipe is amazing during the summer months, especially if you happen to have your own garden with fresh basil growing.  It’s a great way to use it all up.

    The lemon juice adds a little bit of clean acid flavor as well as helping to preserve the bright green color of the basil in the pesto.

    Be careful not to heat up the pesto too much as it will cause the sauce to separate and become oily.

    The sauce should be creamy and emulsified, it should not be runny.

    basil pesto sauce in a jar with cheese

    More Sauce Recipes

    Be sure to follow me on FacebookYoutube, Instagram, and Pinterest and if you’ve had a chance to make this then definitely drop me a comment and a rating below!

    Let's Cook - Chef Billy Parisi

    Simple Basil Pesto Recipe

    5 from 1 vote
    This delicious classic recipe for basil pesto is the perfect sauce to add to any pasta dish that will take it from boring to the bomb.
    Servings: 16 servings
    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Cook Time: 0 minutes

    Ingredients 

    • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
    • 3 garlic cloves
    • juice of ½ lemon
    • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
    • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
    • 2 tablespoons grated pecorino romano cheese
    • ¾ cup olive oil
    • sea salt and pepper to taste

    Instructions

    • Add the pine nuts to a small sauté pan over low heat and cook for 4-5 minutes or until lightly browned. Frequently stir with a spoon so they do not burn. Set aside.
    • Add the basil, garlic, lemon juice, parmesan cheese and pine nuts to a food processor and pulse oh high speed 12-15 times or until finely chopped.
    • Add in the pecorino roman cheese and salt and pepper and pulse on high speed while drizzling in the olive oil until it becomes emulsified.
    • Store until ready to use.

    Notes

    Chef Notes:
    • How to Store: This will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. It freezes extremely well for up to 3 months. My suggestion, like in my sofrito recipe, would be to separate the sauce into silicone trays when freezing so you can pull out as little or as much as you’d like.
    • You do not have to toast the pine nuts, but it greatly enhances the flavor of the pesto by doing so.
    • This recipe is amazing during the summer months, especially if you happen to have your own garden with fresh basil growing. It’s a great way to use it all up.
    • The lemon juice adds a little bit of clean acid flavor as well as helping to preserve the bright green color of the basil in the pesto.
    • Be careful not to heat up the pesto too much as it will cause the sauce to separate and become oily.
    • The sauce should be creamy and emulsified, it should not be runny.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 115kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 2gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 56mgPotassium: 22mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 185IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 48mgIron: 1mg
    Course: sauce, Side Dish
    Cuisine: Italian