When you learn how to make pesto, you may start put it on everything. This basil pesto is great with pasta, on seafood, chicken, sandwiches, pizza, bread and so much more.
I started making this pesto several years ago when I was growing tons of basil in my back yard. I didn’t know how I would use it all up. Until I discovered how to make pesto myself!
I looked at a few different recipes, and I tinkered with the amounts until I got everything just perfect. And that has been my go to basil pesto for almost ten years!
Choose quality ingredients to make pesto
Your pesto will only be as good as your ingredients.
You want lush, green basil. If you don’t grow it yourself, look for one of those live basil plants in the pot. I have seen them at Trader Joe’s, Sprouts and Publix around here.
If you want to grow it, just know that basil loves sunlight and heat. It is a summer-loving plant. It will not do well with frost. Here is more on how to grow basil over here if you are interested.
Use good quality parmesan, not the shelf stable stuff that is not refrigerated. I have used that stuff in a pinch, and it was still good. But real parmesan is so much better. Romano and/or pecorino also work.
With pine nuts, make sure they have not gone rancid. Tip: If you buy a big bag (like at Costco, for example), or if you only use pine nuts every once in a while, keep them in the freezer. I do not toast my pine nuts. Some people prefer to do that, but I just don’t find it necessary.
A great quality olive oil helps too. As far as readily available and affordable ones, I love the Kirkland brand from Costco. And I am not alone according to this chef who recommends Kirkland as well. Trader Joe’s is pretty tasty too, and I love the drizzle spout that comes with it.
How to make pesto
Once I have my ingredients, making pesto is very simple. I just add my ingredients, minus the olive oil, to my food processor. Tip: I always give my garlic a rough chop to help out the food processor.
I give it about ten to twelve pulses to start breaking down the ingredients. While the processor is off, I remove the lid and scrape the sides with a silicone spatula. I place the lid back on, turn on the food processor, and stream my olive oil in, until desired texture is reached.
You may have to remove the lid and scrape the sides one more time. Just puree until it looks like this. 😍
Adjusting saltiness of your pesto
I do like my pesto on the salty side. Mainly because I use it the most with pasta, and pasta is pretty bland on its own. But feel free to adjust the salt to your liking. I would suggest adding half of what is below, then tasting and adding more if you like.
Also, the saltiness of your cheese can be different from mine. This is another reason that it is a good idea to taste, and add to your preference.
How to make pesto without pine nuts
Pine nuts give the best flavor, in my opinion, and I highly recommend them. But a couple of good substitutes would be cashews or walnuts.
Can I freeze pesto?
Yes! I have done the ice cube tray method. Just spoon some into an ice cube tray, freeze it, and then transfer the frozen cubes to a freezer bag. You can just take them out as you need them, which is great.
I also loved the baking sheet pesto freezing method that I saw over on The Kitchn. Pretty clever!
How to make basil pesto pasta
I am working on a full recipe post for chicken pesto pasta, and I will link it here when it goes live. I did want to let you know a couple helpful tips. One batch of this pesto recipe makes just enough to coat one pound of pasta.
If I can get my hands on a lot of basil, I prefer to make a double batch so that I have extra if I want it. And I freeze whatever we don’t use. We like lots of pesto on our pasta!
Also, I wanted to give a tip for how I assemble pesto pasta. I always reserve some of the pasta water. I carefully collect it just after the pasta is cooked, and just prior to draining it. I use a coffee mug, and I carefully dunk it into the water to collect anywhere from about a half cup to a full cup or so of the starchy pasta water.
When I get ready to mix everything together, I generally use the pot that I cooked the pasta in as my “mixing bowl.” One less dish to wash!😂👌🏻
Anyway, I add the drained pasta back into the pot (no longer on a heat source). I spoon the pesto on top, and I add a little splash of the pasta water (not the whole thing, maybe start with a couple Tablespoons). This thins it out and helps it distribute evenly over all the pasta.
I stir to combine, and if needed I will add a little more pasta water.
How to make pesto – the recipe
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How to Make Pesto
When you learn how to make pesto, you may start put it on everything. This basil pesto is great with pasta, on seafood, chicken, pizza and so much more.
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 cups basil (washed, mine was 22 grams on a food scale)
- 2 cloves of fresh garlic (medium cloves)
- 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil (more or less, depending on preferred texture)
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt (I would use half then add the rest to taste)
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Wash, pat dry and trim the fresh basil. I use leaves and stems.
Peel and rough chop the garlic cloves. This helps the food processor and prevents huge chunks of garlic.
Add all ingredients to the food processor, except for the olive oil,
Pulse the food processor about 10 times to start to break down the ingredients.
Remove the lid (while off, not processing!) and scrape the sides of the food processor. Put the lid back on.
Stream in extra virgin olive oil slowly through the spout while processing (about 30 seconds), until desired consistency (I used about 1/3 cup).
Serve immediately for best results.
My batch made 3/4 cup of pesto. Each serving is approximately 1.5 Tablespoons.
Nutritional information is approximate and was calculated using a recipe nutrition label generator.
One batch is just enough to coat one pound of pasta.