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    Basil Pesto Recipe (Pesto Genovese)

    Published July 15, 2024. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

    This delicious classic Italian basil pesto recipe is the perfect sauce to add to any pasta, sandwich, or main entree. It only requires a few ingredients and takes 15 minutes to make.

    Whether it’s on a steak or a simple open-faced sandwich doesn’t matter. We are a sauce family and love to complement what we eat with plenty of it. If you’re similar, then definitely try my Chimichurri or Amogio Sauce.

    basil pesto in a jar


     

    Pesto

    Pesto is an Italian specialty uncooked sauce made from fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano, and olive oil. The word translates as pounded, which makes sense because it is classically finely ground using a pestle and mortar or, nowadays, in a food processor.

    This version of pesto using these ingredients is known as Pesto Genovese, as it originated in Genoa, Italy. It can be used in a myriad of ways but is most loved and served tossed with pasta.

    It has a pungent 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 similar to chimichurri sauce. However, it is a bit more emulsified.

    Ingredients and Substitutions

    • Basil – You will need fresh basil for this recipe. It is ok to use Thai basil if that is all you have.
    • Lemon — Some freshly squeezed lemon juice will help add some much-needed acid to the sauce and assist in preserving the bright green basil color.
    • Cheese – Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano can be used or added as I did.
    • Nuts — Pine nuts are the classic nut to use. Since they are expensive, try substituting them with cashews, almonds, or pistachios.
    • Garlic — The sauce uses a whole garlic clove. Substitute 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder or granules.
    • Olive Oil – Any good extra virgin olive oil will work. I buy oil bottled at the source, expeller or cold pressed, organic, and on sale.
    • Seasoning – Only coarse salt and freshly cracked pepper are used.

    How to Make Pesto Genovese

    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 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

    Once done, the pesto should be creamy, emulsified, and bright green.

    Make-Ahead and Storage

    Make-Ahead: For Freshness, you can make this up to 5 days ahead.

    How to Store: This will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. It freezes extremely well for up to 3 months. When freezing, I suggest separating the sauce into silicone trays so you can pull out as little or as much as you’d like.

    Chef Billy Parisi

    chef notes + tips

    • 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 fresh basil growing in your garden. It’s a great way to use it all up.
    • The lemon juice adds a little bit of clean acid flavor and helps preserve the bright green color of the basil in the pesto.
    • Be careful not to heat the pesto too much, as this will cause the sauce to separate and become oily.
    • The sauce should be creamy and emulsified. It should not be runny.
    • If, for some reason, you are allergic to nuts or don’t like the taste of pine nuts, you can simply remove them from this recipe. By taking them out of the pesto, the recipe’s name changes to Pistou.

    More Sauce Recipes

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    Let's Cook - Chef Billy Parisi

    Video

    Simple Basil Pesto Recipe

    5 from 19 votes
    This delicious classic Italian basil pesto recipe is the perfect sauce to add to any pasta, sandwich, or main entree.
    Servings: 16 servings
    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Cook Time: 0 minutes

    Ingredients 

    • 2 packed 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
    • coarse 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

    Make-Ahead: For Freshness, you can make this up to 5 days ahead.
    How to Store: This will keep you covered in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. It freezes extremely well for up to 3 months. When freezing, I suggest separating the sauce into silicone trays 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 fresh basil growing in your garden. It’s a great way to use it all up.
    The lemon juice adds a little bit of clean acid flavor and helps preserve the bright green color of the basil in the pesto.
    Be careful not to heat the pesto too much, as this will cause the sauce to separate and become oily.
    The sauce should be creamy and emulsified. It should not be runny.
    If, for some reason, you are allergic to nuts or don’t like the taste of pine nuts, you can simply remove them from this recipe. By taking them out of the pesto, the recipe’s name changes to Pistou.

    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