Basil Pesto Recipe

September 4, 2015

Basil pesto is an easy sauce to make for pastas, marinades, and much more! Add toasted pine nuts, and this basil pesto recipe will become one of your favorites!

Basil Pesto Recipe

Basil pesto is a delicious sauce to add to many different dishes such as pasta, salmon, grilled chicken, salads, and so much more!

This deliciously flavorful sauce is pretty much the Italian version of a chimichurri sauce. Fresh herbs, olive oil, and garlic…you really can’t go wrong!

The term pesto is derived from pestle – because pesto is traditionally made with a mortar and pestle. A common myth is that all pesto is made with basil. However, there are many different types of pesto made from a variety of ingredients. Basil pesto is just the most common.

In this basil pesto recipe you’ll combine fresh basil, toasted pine nuts, garlic olive oil, parmesan, and lemon. However, just like my chimichurri recipe and greek yogurt garlic sauce, a pesto recipe can very easily be adapted to fit your family’s needs.

If you don’t have pine nuts, you can easily leave them out or sub them for walnuts. If you don’t like lemon juice, skip it. Love parmesan? Add more!

I planted my garden pretty late this year, partially because I was behind schedule, but also because my garden boxes weren’t ready until late June.

I went into it knowing, that I very well could be wasting my entire summer growing all of the veggies, only to have them freeze before they were ready, but I love my garden, and it makes me happy just to be out there with my chickens and kitties, so I didn’t mind.

One thing that has grown like crazy though, is basil. I came home from a few days in Reno to find that my three basil plants had practically taken over! This was great, except for the fact that I don’t actually like basil very much. Truthfully, the smell of it makes me queasy. 

Weird, I know. The only thing I really like, is basil pesto. I like my pesto made with extra pine nuts, and lots of garlic. So, what’s a girl to do when she comes home to find a basil take over? Make pesto of course!!!

What is pesto?

Pesto is commonly made from basil, oil, cheese, and seasonings. It originated in Genoa, Italy!

However, pesto can be made with many different ingredients though such as tomatoes or roasted pepper.

The name pesto originates from the tool originally used to make pesto called: pestle! A pestle & mortar were used to grind the ingredients down into the delicious paste we know as pesto!

Toasted Pine Nuts in Pesto

This recipe calls for toasted pine nuts, mostly because I LOVE pine nuts, especially when they’re toasted.

You don’t have to toast the pine nuts. In fact, you don’t even have to use pine nuts! Many people used walnuts instead!

I love the flavor that pine nuts add to pesto, especially when toasted, so I prefer to toast the pine nuts when making fresh basil pesto!

Can you freeze pesto?

Yep! Pesto can be frozen for 6 months. One of the best and easiest ways to freeze pesto is to fill an ice cube tray or silicone mold. Once frozen, they can be removed from the mold and placed into freezer safe baggies.

How long does pesto last?

Pesto will last for about a week in the fridge, conservatively. I have had pesto in my fridge for much longer than a week. You can freeze pesto for up to 6 months.

What can pesto be used on?

All the things. Pesto is delicious in so many ways! On a sandwich, on salmon, slathered over toast, with pasta, on pizza (try my homemade pizza dough recipe!), over roasted potatoes, in a salad… the list goes on and on!

Can I make pesto without nuts or cheese?

Absolutely! Basil pesto will be delicious without adding nuts. If you have a nut allergy, simply skip adding the nuts. You may find you need to add a little more cheese or salt to get the flavors just right.

If you have a dairy intolerance and need to skip the cheese, try adding some nutritional yeast instead. Start with 3 tablespoons, you can always add more to get the taste *just right*.

Can I add spinach to basil pesto?

Yep! If you don’t care so much for basil, a great way to tone down the basil flavor is to sub in about half of the amount of basil for fresh spinach.

Can I use dried basil?

Unfortunately, this recipe will not taste good if you use dried basil. Use the fresh stuff!

Yield: 8 oz

Traditional Basil Pesto with Toasted Pine Nuts

Traditional Basil Pesto with Toasted Pine Nuts

Basil pesto is an easy sauce to make for pastas, marinades, and much more! Add toasted pine nuts, and this pesto will become one of your favorites!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes


  • 6 Cups Fresh Basil Leaves
  • 6 Cloves Garlic
  • Juice from Half a Lemon
  • 1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 Cup + 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil, divided
  • 1/3 Cup Pine Nuts (can sub walnuts)
  • Salt - to taste
  • Garlic Powder - to taste


  1. Preheat your oven to 425 F
  2. In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, garlic powder, and pine nuts. Toss to coat the nuts.
  3. Sprinkle over a baking sheet and place in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until toasted. Remove from oven, and allow to cool.
  4. In a blender or food processor add olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, pine nuts, and parmesan. Pulse to combine, then add the basil. Puree until smooth.
  5. Taste, and add more Parmesan, salt, etc.. until you are happy with the flavors.

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