Classic Basil Pesto Recipe

Basil Pesto is such a versatile sauce. It’s fantastic tossed with any pasta or used as a spread on sandwiches. It’s the secret ingredient in Chicken Pesto Pasta or these Chicken Pesto Roll-Ups.

Homemade pesto is surprisingly easy and inexpensive to make and fresh tastes so much better than storebought. We keep a steady supply of this fantastic sauce in the fridge and freezer since it stores really well.

Pesto Sauce Recipe in jar

Basil Pesto Recipe

Try this homemade basil pesto recipe, you’ll never want the store-bought stuff again! Freshly made sauce is so vibrant in color and flavor. The lemon juice here keeps the color beautiful and adds fresh flavor without needing too much salt.

All you need is a handful of simple ingredients, a food processor, and a few minutes of spare time to get the best pesto sauce you’ve ever had!

Basil pesto in jar with spoon

What Is Pesto Sauce?

I’m sure you’ve seen pesto placed in the menus of any Italian restaurant or trendy pizza shop you’ve been to, but what really is it? Pesto is basically a bright green sauce that is made from crushing together basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and parmesan cheese. It’s a sauce that originated in Italy, with the term pesto deriving from an Italian verb “pestare” which means “to crush”. It was originally made using a Mortar and Pestle.

Ingredients for Basil Pesto:

Most of the ingredients needed for this recipe are things you probably already have on hand. Just pick up some fresh basil leaves the day you want to make the sauce.

  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Pine nuts (or walnuts)
  • Garlic Cloves
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt & Pepper

Can I substitute the Pine Nuts?

While traditional pesto sauce is made with pine nuts, you can certainly replace the pine nuts with a less expensive nut such as walnuts, or blanched almonds.

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.

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. It’s the basil leaf that most people typically think of as “normal” basil. For a sweeter pesto use the sweet basil leaves. For a slight spicy kick, try the Thai, and if you like a little hint of lemon, definitely try lemon basil.

Most grocery stores will only sell one type of basil, so if you want to try the less common types, check your local farmers market or specialty produce shop.

Fresh Italian basil in colander

How to Make Basil Pesto Recipe:

1. Gently rinse fresh basil leaves and pat dry or use a salad spinner to remove excess water.

2. Place all of your ingredients to a food processor or a high powered blender and process until smooth.

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 since they are compensating for freshness. Salt also preserves the sauce for a longer shelf life.

How to Make Basil Pesto in food processor

What Does Basil Pesto Go With?

Basil pesto is an easy and healthy summer sauce that adds incredible flavor to a variety of dishes. Of course, there are the obvious uses for basil pesto, like mixing it in with your favorite pasta dish, or as the base for a pizza, but there’s so much more you can do with it!

  • Spread on to a sandwich for an elevated lunch
  • Thin it down with oil or vinegar and make a basil pesto salad dressing
  • Marinate or toss with your veggies instead of the typical oil and parmesan
  • Use as a sauce topping for meat: chicken, salmon, pork tenderloin, and of course beef steaks.

Pesto sauce blended and in a jar ready to serve with pasta

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

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

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


  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves tightly packed
  • 3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts or walnuts
  • 2 garlic cloves (large)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (juice of 2 small lemons)
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper


  1. Wash and dry the basil leaves.
  2. Place basil into a food processor, add cheese, nuts, garlic cloves, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Process until smooth.

  3. Season with more salt to taste if desired.

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