Classic Basil Pesto Recipe

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The scent of fresh basil, mixed with garlic, Parmesan and olive oil is heavenly. It’s such a fresh and bright aroma. It livens up the kitchen and makes the anticipation of eating it even greater.

Be prepared. You’re going to need a lot of basil to make this delicious pesto sauce. Hopefully you’re lucky enough to have your own garden with fresh basil growing to spare.

I only have a small basil plant growing on the windowsill in my apartment, but occasionally there’s enough growing to make a fresh batch of basil pesto, which is a happy occasion, indeed.

How to Make Basil Pesto

Pesto is so easy to make that it can be whipped up on the spot, with no need to make it ahead or plan it all out. All you need is a few ingredients and a stick blender or food processor.

A plate of pesto pasta is a thing of true joy for me. I also love pesto on zucchini noodles and shaved asparagus. It’s so versatile!

Classic Pesto Recipe

What you’ll to make this recipe:

  • A bunch of basil leaves
  • High-quality olive oil
  • Toasted pine nuts
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Garlic and salt

Mix all of these things in either a stick blender chopper attachment (like you see in the picture below) or a food processor.

pesto prep

I love this Cuisinart Mini Prep Food Processor. It’s perfect for the job. A regular-sized food processor will work well for large batches, but can be too large for a smaller batch of pesto. I also really like the Cuisinart Smart Stick hand blender (pictured). The chopper attachment is perfect for making pesto.

Classic Pesto Recipe

You want to blend it up until it’s fairly smooth, but there should still be some small chunks of cheese and basil. It shouldn’t be completely smooth. The little bits are where all the flavor comes from.

The heavenly smell of fresh chopped basil will flood your kitchen. Be prepared for the mouth watering to start.

Taste the pesto once it’s blended and make any adjustments to the seasoning. Since you haven’t added any salt yet, you’ll likely need to add a sprinkle or two. Start with just a pinch and add more until you’ve reached your desired saltiness.

Classic Pesto Recipe

What to Serve With Pesto

My favorite thing to put pesto on is cheese ravioli. The flavors meld together so well. But there are many different pastas you can pair with a pesto. Try tagliatelle pasta. It’s has just the right surface area and delivers the perfect amount of pesto in each bite.

If you like asparagus, you’ll love our Shaved Asparagus Pesto salad. The pesto is a perfect sauce for light and wispy asparagus ribbons.

Classic Pesto Recipe

Another favorite of ours is gnocchi with pesto. You can learn to make your own gnocchi at home, too. If you were to freeze homemade gnocchi and pesto, you could have a meal ready in moments.

When we were in Venice last year, we had a wonderful plate of paccheri (oversized rigatoni) with pesto that was incredible.

Classic Pesto Recipe

Get creative! You can serve pesto on just about anything, even steak or potatoes.

Other Variations of Pesto

If you’re not a big basil fan, I will eventually forgive you. I guess it’s possible that not everyone loves this herb. If that’s the case, you can use other herbs to make pesto. You could try arugula and walnut pesto for a spicy alternative, or spinach and pine nut for a milder version.

making pesto

You should also feel free to leave out an ingredient if you don’t want it. For instance, you can leave out the garlic, or substitute the pine nuts with walnuts.

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Homemade Basil Pesto

Classic Basil Pesto Recipe

This quick and easy-to-make basil pesto is so fresh, aromatic, and full of bright herbaceous flavor.
4.89 from 18 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Sauces
Cuisine: American
Keyword: basil
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4 Servings
Calories: 157kcal
Author: Laura


  • 1 oz fresh basil leaves
  • 1 oz Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese crumbled or shredded
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts toasted for extra flavor
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • salt to taste


  • Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and puree for 30 seconds.
  • Stop to stir and push leaves down. Blend for an additional 15 seconds.
  • Add to pasta or food as desired.

Equipment Needed


Calories: 157kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 114mg | Potassium: 51mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 429IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 96mg | Iron: 1mg


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