This easy homemade basil pesto is just 5 ingredients, including walnuts instead of pine nuts, and comes out gorgeous, fresh and delicious in only 5 minutes!
I had a huge garden at our old house and fresh basil was always a part of it.
We grew other herbs – parsley, mint, cilantro, thyme and rosemary – as well as zucchini, squash, all kinds of peppers and tomatoes, and sometimes eggplant, arugula and pole beans.
It was big and beautiful and I thought gardening was pretty easy.
Fast forward to our current house, which I love and adore so very much. But the backyard doesn’t get great sun and the small area designated for a garden has so-so soil and so-so success.
Thankfully, I’ve scaled back both my plantings and my expectations and this year am having a big more luck. (Minus the rabbits who ravaged my lettuce crop. Up next: a small wire fence to block them.) It’s a learning process, for sure.
Growing basil, though, I’ve got that pretty well figured out. They seem to grow up and out so quickly and beautifully, so I just have to make sure to check on it and keep it from flowering.
And that’s fine by me. I’m happy to go grab handfuls at a time to add to dishes all summer long.
And anytime it seems to be getting a little wild, or if it’s been a while since I’ve picked it, I snip off entire branches and get to making pesto.
It’s such a great way to use up a lot of fresh basil – and since it stores great, it’s the perfect way to preserve it.
Fresh homemade basil pesto is so quick and easy to make yourself! It’s just 5 basic ingredients (including the olive oil) and takes just 5 minutes to make in a food processor or blender.
The freshness can’t be beat and the gorgeous, bright color is so beautiful. And bonus: you get to control the ingredients!
And there are SO many ways to use pesto. (Check out that post for tons of ideas and recipes.)
Plus, it’s WAY cheaper to make pesto yourself at home. Even more so with this recipe because we’re using walnuts instead of pine nuts.
I buy huge bags of walnuts and keep some in the pantry and the rest in the freezer in smaller bags to keep them fresh. So I’ve always got them on hand. Pine nuts, not so much.
(If that’s what you have though, you can definitely use them here instead of the walnuts.)
Of course, you don’t need to grow your own basil to make your own pesto. You can buy it at the store or farmer’s market and get to whipping this up.
Now, I’ve got some notes and tips coming up below on how to make homemade basil pesto. Just tryin’ to be helpful.
If you want to jump on down to the recipe, simply scroll right on through the rest of the text. The recipe card is near the bottom of the page, above the comments section.
What do you need to make homemade pesto?
– You’ll need fresh basil, Parmesan cheese, walnuts or pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper.
– Pesto can be made using a food processor or a blender. (Keep reading for details.)
So let’s get going!
Notes on making basil pesto:
- You need two full cups of basil for this recipe. Those smaller clamshell containers at the store won’t be enough. You either need a really large one, a few smaller ones or a fresh basil plant from the store. Or, of course, fresh basil from your garden or the farmer’s market. 🌿
- Fresh Parmesan is key here, too. The green cylinder containers from the store won’t give you the same freshness for this pesto. Go for a wedge of Parmesan or a tub of freshly grated Parmesan.
- Walnuts are much more accessible and much less expensive than pine nuts, which are traditional in many pesto recipes. You can certainly substitute some or all pine nuts for the walnuts in this recipe, if you prefer.
- Technically, you are supposed to stream in the oil slowly so it gets well incorporated and creates a smooth pesto, as described in the recipe below. However, I’ve also used my mini food processor before (which does not have a top feed tube) and dumped in all of the oil and processed it that way. It worked just fine.
- A good blender would be an OK substitute if you don’t have a food processor.
Now you’ve got some gorgeously green homemade pesto sauce. So let’s use it!
Here’s a few ideas of ways you can enjoy it.
Serving ideas for basil pesto:
– Serve as an appetizer with fresh crunchy veggie sticks or as a topping for warmed bread.
– Toss it with warm cooked pasta to make an easy sauce.
-Use it on sandwiches and wraps for a flavorful alternative to mayo.
– Add to salads and grain bowls as an easy mix-in sauce.
– Drizzle over fresh mozzarella and tomatoes for a Caprese salad or bruschetta topping.
– Toss it with some cooked chopped or shredded chicken for an easy flavor boost.
– Use as the base of a pizza sauce instead of marinara.
– Make pesto chicken salad for lunch for the week.
– Mix with ricotta or cottage cheese, or Greek yogurt or sour cream, to make a creamy dip or spread.
And here’s a few recipes that use basil pesto if you want some specific ideas:
- Creamy pesto pasta with spring veggies
- Pesto chicken salad
- Baked pesto chicken sliders
- Spaghetti squash with pesto chicken
- Quinoa spinach salad with pesto
- Cold barley salad with chicken and creamy pesto
- Roasted veggie wrap with basil and goat cheese
And since this makes a lot of pesto, let’s talk about the best ways to store it.
Storage tips for homemade pesto:
– This pesto will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. Keep it in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap that is pushed down and touching the surface of the pesto to form a tighter seal and to prevent air from reaching it.
– You can also freeze extra pesto. Freeze in small ice cube trays. Once frozen, remove the pesto cubes, transfer to a freezer safe bag (that’s been labelled and dated) and freeze for up to 6 months. You can pull out a cube or two, as needed.
You’ll love having some fresh pesto on hand to pull out and use for appetizers, sauces and spreads.
Whether you’re growing your own herbs or buying a bumper crop from the store or farmer’s market, I hope you love this beautiful and easy pesto.
P.S. Stay tuned: I’ve got another pesto-related post coming up later this week.
You can also sign up for my free e-newsletter to get all of my new recipes delivered straight to your inbox so you never miss a thing. I’ll even send you my free e-cookbook, Healthy Weeknight Dinners, as a thank you!
- 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
- 3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup walnuts (see notes)
- 2 large garlic cloves, halved
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Add the basil, Parmesan, walnuts, garlic, salt and pepper to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a standard blade. Pulse until everything is finely chopped and broken down.
- Slowly stream the oil in through the top open feed tube, while running the processor, until it’s well combined and the pesto is smooth. Scrape down the sides and process again, if needed.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately or cover tightly with plastic wrap (push it onto the surface of the pesto), and refrigerate until ready to use.
Walnuts are much more accessible and much less expensive than pine nuts, which are traditional in many pesto recipes. You can certainly substitute some or all pine nuts for the walnuts in this recipe, if you prefer.
Technically, you are supposed to stream in the oil slowly so it gets well incorporated and creates a smooth pesto, as described in the recipe below. However, I’ve also used my mini food processor before (which does not have a top feed tube) and dumped in all of the oil and processed it again that way. It worked just fine.
A good blender would be an OK substitute if you don’t have a food processor.
Storage tips for homemade pesto:
- This pesto will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. Keep it in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap that is pushed down and touching the surface of the pesto to form a tighter seal and to prevent air from reaching it.
- You can also freeze extra pesto. Freeze in small ice cube trays. Once frozen, remove the pesto cubes, transfer to a freezer safe bag (that’s been labelled and dated) and freeze for up to 6 months.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 196Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 6mgSodium: 189mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 3g