Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto


To make basil pesto that is at all eco­nom­i­cal, you should either grow your own basil, or have a friend who does. I mourn the loss of my basil plants dur­ing the win­ter. There is no real sub­sti­tute for fresh. I only use dried in recipes to make myself feel bet­ter, it doesn’t really taste that awesome.

Last year I tried freez­ing pesto. My fam­ily loved the result so much that I instantly regret­ted mak­ing such a small amount. My recipe yielded  about seven or eight 1/2 cup por­tions that, after I started rationing, we ran through in maybe three months. Made a men­tal note to make about four times that amount this year. It’s great in a ton of applications.

Makes 5–6 1/2 cup portions



Basil Pesto


  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed pretty tightly ( 5 ounces)
  • 1 1/3 cups pine nuts (can sub­sti­tute other oily nuts such as: wal­nuts, pump­kin seed, almonds)
  • 3 medium-large cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/4 cups grated ital­ian cheese (parme­san is tra­di­tional, I use a blend of parme­san and Romano)
  • 1 cup good qual­ity extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tea­spoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 tea­spoon black pepper
  • 1 tea­spoon sugar
  • addi­tional olive oil


  1. Place the basil leaves in a food proces­sor and pulse until half-way chopped. Add the Pine nuts and gar­lic. Con­tinue puls­ing. Add the cheese, salt, pep­per ‚and sugar. Through the pour­ing spout, with the proces­sor on, Driz­zle the olive oil into the basil mix­ture. When oil has been added, stop pro­cess­ing. You don’t want it done to a fine paste. A lit­tle tex­ture is best.
  2. I store pesto in 1/2 cup por­tions in zip-close freezer bags. Put in the pesto, press out the extra air, flat­ten­ing the pesto in the bag, and driz­zle a bit of olive oil over the top. Seal tightly, and freeze flat.
  3. Should keep for a year if you can make it last that long!



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  1. This inspires me. I wanna try it and see if it works with us.

  2. Yum! I love pesto. I have so many basil plants scat­ter­ing my yard, and pesto has to be one of my favorite uses. I like your recipe. I’m going to give it a try next time.

  3. So true! Good thing I have a nice big pot of fresh basil wait­ing to be made into pesto sauce :) Please link up this and any of your favorite sum­mer blog posts to my “Happy Post” Help spread the cheer :)

  4. This looks yummy but do you know if it’s ok to leave out the nuts? My son has a tree nut allergy. Thanks.

    • Tanya– Yep! There are so many inter­pre­ta­tions of pesto that it really can be what­ever you want. While pine nuts are inte­gral to clas­sic pesto, it is pos­si­ble to sub­sti­tute prac­ti­cally every ele­ment of the recipe and still have a pesto. Could you pos­si­bly switch the pine nuts for pump­kin seeds or sun­flower seeds? You could also just omit the nuts altogether.

  5. Thanks for let­ting me know that if I con­tin­u­ally cut back my Basil plants they would pro­duce more. I have been able to freeze lots of pesto this year! I love it!

  6. The orig­i­nal recipe has only with pine nuts, basil leaves, extra veer­gin olive oil, Parmi­giano Reg­giano and Pecorino cheese and lit­tle gar­lic. And that’s all!

    Tra­di­tional way to make “pesto alla gen­ovese” is using a mor­tar in mar­ble but if you don’t have it, you can use a food proces­sor but be sure to use it on low speed to avoid over­heat­ing the basil leaves.

    The most clas­sic lig­urian recipe with pesto are “Trenette al pesto”:…

    But in Lig­uria, there’s also another tra­di­tional dish with pesto sauce: Genoa-style pesto lasagna…

    Mario Grazia

  7. Hey, LOOK!!! Mario Grazia left you a com­ment!!! tee hee!

  8. I tried this (with­out the cheese) and it came out won­der­fully. Thanks for the recipe!

  9. Naive ques­tion: What can you do with basil pesto besides putting it in pasta or on bread? I love it but I’m not sure what else I could have with it. I don’t eat refined carbs all that often any­more, unfortunately.

    • It can also be deli­cious as a bast­ing for veg­eta­bles, such as grilled arti­chokes, or roasted toma­toes. You could also use it on spaghetti squash, or juli­enne your zuc­chini like a pasta and use it as a sauce. Let us know if any of these work for you!

  10. What’s the best type of basil to use? Ther are so many…sweet, Gen­o­vasee, etc..

    • The most com­mon for pesto are: Ital­ian clas­sico, Ital­ian large leaf, and Gen­ovese. There are dozens of basils, and some of them might pos­si­bly make an awe­some pesto, so I encour­age exper­i­men­ta­tion!! You can also swap out the pine nuts for other kinds of nuts.

  11. Tammy, chanced upon your site while googling for a pig­no­lia sub­sti­tute. Just before find­ing you (my lucky day!), I was at “The Salt,” NPR’s pro­gram of 8/8/2013, read­ing about the “Plight of the Pinenuts” and a beau­ti­ful sub­sti­tute that Julia della Croce uses. Pis­ta­chio nuts mixed w/a hand­ful of lightly toasted blanched almonds. Only thing miss­ing that I am going to punc­til­iously add is a pine nee­dle, pul­ver­ized, just a smidgen of a pinch at a time, until I get that dimen­sion of fla­vor –if that’s pos­si­ble. What do you think? Thanks for inspir­ing me. By the way, I for­got to bring in my basil pots before the freeze hit last night (Nebraska), but read that some­times they will resprout from basal nodes on the main stems, given a sunny view and TLC.

    • I have heard many suc­cess sto­ries with nut sub­sti­tu­tions, and I love the idea of using pis­ta­chio! Pinenuts are indeed expen­sive and some­times hard to find. This recipe begs for some cre­ative ver­sions! I’d love to hear of any­ones exper­i­ments, includ­ing yours. Please let us know how you like it! And good luck with your basil. Noth­ing comes close to fresh!


  1. In the kitchen. « My Two Green Thumbs - [...] think that this year I might have perfected pesto. I used this recipe, substituting mozzarella for parmesan and almonds …

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