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Basil Pesto Recipe – NatashasKitchen.com

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This authentic Italian Pesto is a vibrant sauce loaded with fresh basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and garlic. There are so many ways to use Pesto, from tossing it with pasta or gnocchi to spreading it on sandwiches or drizzling it over a salad. It’s so versatile!

Homemade pesto is surprisingly easy to make from scratch. This pesto recipe also keeps really well in the refrigerator and freezer.

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Basil Pesto Recipe

I’m always comparing this homemade pesto to the Costco pesto (which is the best store-bought one I’ve found) and this fresh pesto recipe wins. The lemon juice keeps the color bright and beautiful and adds fresh flavor without needing too much extra salt (storebought pesto tends to taste saltier).

What Is Pesto Sauce?

Pesto is essentially a vibrant Italian green sauce made by crushing together: fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and parmesan cheese.

It’s a sauce that originated in Genoa, Italy, with the term pesto derived from the Italian word “pestare” which means to crush or to pound. It was originally made using a Mortar and Pestle but we find it’s faster and easier in a food processor.

This pesto recipe is also the secret ingredient in Chicken Pesto Pasta and Chicken Pesto Roll-Ups.

Ingredients for Basil Pesto

Most of the ingredients needed for this pesto recipe are things you probably already have on hand. If you don’t have basil growing in your garden, it’s best to buy it fresh the day you are making the sauce.

Basil – use fresh basil leaves. The common basil leaves for pesto are large-leaf basil, sweet basil, or Genovese basil. Rinse, drain, and dry your basil leaves.

Parmesan cheese – you can use pre-shredded or freshly grated

Extra virgin olive oil – use the best quality oil you can source

Pine nuts – these are typical for pesto

Garlic cloves – we use 2 large cloves which add a nice punch

Lemon juice – use freshly squeezed juice from 1 large or 2 smaller lemons. Do not use lemon juice concentrate.

Salt & Pepper – can be added to taste

Can I substitute Pine Nuts?

While traditional pesto sauce is made with pine nuts, but they can be a bit expensive. You can certainly replace them with less expensive nuts such as walnuts, or blanched almonds.

Pro Tip:

To get the most flavor out of your nuts, toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat, tossing often until golden and fragrant. Cool before using them in the recipe.

What Type of Basil Should I Use?

There are many varieties of basil. A few of the most popular include Italian large leaf (sweet basil), Thai, and lemon basil. Any of these can be used for pesto, but each has a slightly different flavor profile.

For a traditional basil pesto flavor, you’ll want to use the Italian large leaf. Most people typically think of this leaf as “normal” basil. It’s also referred to as sweet basil or Genovese basil and is the type of basil most commonly sold in grocery stores.

Pro Tip:

If you love time-saving shortcuts, the fastest way to rinse and dry fresh basil leaves is to put them into a salad spinner, add cold water to rinse, then drain and spin dry. Drying the basil is important so you don’t end up with a watered-down sauce.

How to Make Basil Pesto

Pro Tip:

After blending the pesto, add more salt to taste if desired. Keep in mind that store-bought pesto sauces can be significantly saltier to compensate for freshness. Salt also preserves the sauce for a longer shelf life.

Serve Pesto with

Basil pesto adds incredible flavor to a variety of dishes. Of course, there are obvious uses for pesto, like mixing it in with your favorite pasta dish, but there’s so much more you can do with it!

When my garden is mass-producing basil, I love to preserve pesto so I can enjoy it long after the season for basil is over. See the helpful storage tips below.

Storage Tips

To Refrigerate: Store in an airtight container for up to one week. You want to minimize exposure to the air to prevent discoloration and spoiling. Drizzling the top with olive oil will also help keep the air away from the sauce.

Freezing: Portion pesto into ice-cube trays. Once frozen, transfer the individual cubes to a freezer-safe zip bag or container, label, and freeze for up to 3 months. You can also transfer the pesto directly to freezer-safe zip bags and lay flat in the freezer.

To Thaw: you can thaw at room temperature for a few hours or thaw in the refrigerator overnight. You can also do a quick thaw in the microwave for short intervals of 15 seconds until just thawed.

More Easy Homemade Sauces

The flavors and ingredients of pesto and these homemade condiment recipes are way better than storebought. Once you make your own homemade dressings and sauces, you won’t want anything else.

Basil Pesto Recipe

Pesto Sauce is so easy to make and homemade pesto tastes way better than storebought. This Basil Pesto recipe is fantastic with pasta, chicken, or sandwiches.

Prep Time: 10 minutes minsTotal Time: 10 minutes mins

Servings: 8 people (makes 1 1/2 cups pesto)

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*Basil: We used an Italian large-leaf basil (sweet basil) but you can experiment with Thai basil or lemon basil for a different flavor profile.*Nut substitutions: Pine nuts are traditional for pesto, but you can substitute them with walnuts or blanched almonds. *Toast the nuts: For more flavor, you can toast the nuts over medium heat in a dry skillet, tossing frequently until the nuts are golden and fragrant then cool to room temperature before using. 

205kcal Calories2g Carbs3g Protein21g Fat4g Saturated Fat8mg Cholesterol290mg Sodium88mg Potassium1g Fiber1g Sugar375IU Vitamin A4.3mg Vitamin C117mg Calcium0.8mg Iron

Nutrition FactsBasil Pesto RecipeAmount per Serving% Daily Value** Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Good Things

This week, we visited Palm Springs for a food blogging retreat, but this one was special because we were able to take the whole family along (I saved my adventures in my Instagram Highlights in case you missed it).

Our flight out was later in the day, so we took the Palm Springs Tram and hiked around the top. I kept snapping photos of my husband and daughter—they were holding hands so sweetly, and I wondered how much longer she’d be asking him to hold her hand while she crossed a log or stepped over boulders 🥹. I want to hold on tight to these moments. Time, slow down, please!

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