How to Make Basil Pesto is a great guide showing you how to make a basic basil pesto recipe along with some substitutions and how to store homemade basil pesto.
How to Make Basil Pesto
If you haven’t made homemade pesto yet please put it on your to-do list!!! I was not a pesto fan until I made it myself……IT’S SO MUCH BETTER!!! It’s a great recipe to have on hand or learn by heart. It’s so easy to make and I PROMISE you will not buy the stuff from the store ever again!! A bold claim, yes, but I truly mean it!
Traditional basil pesto is made with basil, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, garlic, a good olive oil, and salt. This recipe is the traditional recipe with a little lemon juice added which is how I like it best but feel free to leave it out if you desire.
Basil Pesto Ingredients
Basil- fresh or frozen, making pesto is a great way to use up some surplus basil you may have in your garden! If you don’t grow your own don’t worry you can easily find it at your local grocery store or farmers market. If you still find that the pesto is too strong for you try substituting half the basil with spinach. It will mellow it out quite a bit but still allows for some basil flavor to come through.
Pine nuts- pine nuts are part of the traditional pesto recipe and offer some creaminess to the pesto but they can be on the expensive side. A great neutral tasting substitute would be almonds. But you can substitute in a different nut of choice as well.
Parmesan- is what calms the strong flavor of basil. Regular Parmesan is used in the traditional recipe but it’s great with a Romano or Parmesan-Reggiano cheese.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil- you are going to want a good quality olive oil for this recipe and a really good quality olive oil comes from the first pressing of the olives. If you want to read more about olive oil this article from Bon Appetit is a good one.
Garlic- This adds another dimension of flavor and one I don’t recommend skipping!
Why is my homemade pesto turning brown?
It’s a chemical reaction. Once cut basil is exposed to the air it oxidizes and starts to turn brown. To combat this you can pour a thin layer of olive oil on top before storing it in the refrigerator. Or what I like to do is press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface making sure not to trap any air then sealing the jar or container.
How to freeze basil pesto:
You can pour the pesto into ice cube trays and freeze for 2 hours. Then remove and place in a freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Just a little note using this method may stain your ice cube trays and leave a little pesto flavor behind. So you may want separate trays from your regular ice trays.
Or you can freeze pesto on a small baking sheet lined with parchment paper for a few hours. Then break into pieces and store in a freezer bag for up to 3 months.
What can I use Homemade Basil Pesto for?
- Stir into cooked pasta, risotto, or cooked tortellini.
- Try it on a pizza
- Spread on crostini topped with chopped tomatoes and goat cheese
- Mix with mayo and use as a spread on a sandwich
- Use as a dip for crackers or crusty bread
- Serve over grilled chicken
- Added to alfredo sauce
- Use in an omelet
How to Make Basil Pesto
- 3 cups loosely packed fresh basil
- 2 large cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4-1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup raw or toasted pine nuts
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- salt to taste
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until well combined. Taste and add salt as needed.
- To Store: Cover with a thin layer of olive oil or press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. To Freeze: Pour into an ice cube tray and freeze for 2 hours or until solid. Remove from tray and store in a freezer bag in the freezer for up to 3 months. (this may discolor and leave behind a pesto flavor in your ice cube tray so may want separate trays.) Or line a small baking sheet with parchment paper and spread pesto in a thin layer. Freeze until solid then break into chunks and store in a freezer bag in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Uses: Stir into cooked pasta, risotto, or cooked tortellini.Try it on a pizzaSpread on crostini topped with chopped tomatoes and goat cheeseMix with mayo and use as a spread on a sandwichUse as a dip for crackers or crusty breadServe over grilled chickenAdded to alfredo sauceUse in an omelet