Here I’ll show you how to make the most delicious homemade basil pesto. After seeing how easy this recipe is you’ll never get store bought again!
If you’ve never made your own pesto, or are just looking for a really good solid pesto recipe, then you’ve come to the right place. Homemade pesto is WAY too easy and delicious not to make and the difference between homemade and store bought is mind blowing. Follow me…
Homemade Basil Pesto
There’s a few different varieties of pesto out there, but a classic basil pesto is by far the most superior (based on, well, my opinion 😂). The best thing about it is you only need 5 ingredients:
- Basil – As fresh as possible. Avoid discoloured basil or basil that is beginning to wilt. Small stalks are fine but you’re mainly looking to use the leaves only.
- Parmesan – Must be freshly grated. Don’t use packet/powdered parmesan, you’ll ruin both the flavour and texture of the pesto.
- Pine Nuts – Adds a nice bit of texture to the pesto. Optionally toasted for an extra hint of flavour.
- Garlic – Fresh garlic, just one clove will do.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – This binds the pesto. I highly recommend using extra virgin for it’s classic flavour. Olive oil will give you a much more mellow flavour.
What can I use instead of Pine Nuts in pesto?
Pine nuts have a gorgeous sweet and almost buttery taste to them, they really are perfect for pesto. But as we all know, they are expensive. If you want to substitute because of this reason, almonds, pistachios and walnuts all work pretty well. Cashews also have a subtle taste to them so they could also work well. If you’re looking to substitute for allergy reasons, sunflower seeds work, however they may turn your pesto slightly grey.
How to make Pesto
As mentioned, pesto is incredibly easy to make, and there’s two main methods that we’ll go over today.
Method #1 – Food Processor
This is the quickest method of the two. It also requires the least amount of effort. At it’s heart, you can add all of the ingredients and pulse until desired texture, but there is a couple of tips for best results:
- Garlic and Pine Nuts – I recommend pulsing these first, just so you can get the nuts to your preferred texture and blitz through the garlic so there’s no large chunks.
- Gradual Oil – In all cases I recommend slowly adding the oil. Just add all your ingredients in, turn on the motor and slowly pour in the oil through the funnel. This will not only help the oil emulsify better, but also give you more control on the consistency of the pesto.
Method #2 – Pestle and Mortar
Bit more elbow grease for this one, but the results are arguably slightly better. A blender with simply cut the ingredients into teeny weeny pieces, where a pestle and mortar will crush them, breaking down the cell walls and releasing the flavours. If using a Pestle and Mortar – start by crushing garlic with salt, this will form a paste. Then begin adding in your basil as much as you can at a time. Follow with your nuts and parmesan and crush to desired texture. Finish by mixing in your oil around 1 tbsp at a time to emulsify.
How do I store Pesto?
Place in a tightly sealed jar with a layer of oil on top of the pesto. Every time you use the pesto top up the oil to help from oxidising. This will last at least a week, if not longer. You can also freeze pesto, they go quite neatly in ice trays to pop out when you need them. If you are freezing I recommend adding the cheese afterwards, the taste of it will change if it’s frozen.
How long does Pesto last?
Using the oil method above storing in the fridge will last around a week, anything after that just be vigilant with your senses before using it. Pesto is great for up to a month in the freezer.
How do I make Vegetarian Pesto?
You can buy vegetarian parmesan (make sure there’s no animal rennet in it) or use any other hard cheese.
How can I use Pesto?
Pesto is great with so many things. Just below I use it to make Pesto Mayo.
Regular pesto is also great to spread in sandwiches, as you’ll see below I’ve made a Pesto Grilled Cheese (which is absolutely to die for).
Alrighty, let’s tuck into the full recipe for this homemade basil pesto shall we?!
How to make Basil Pesto (Full Recipe & Video)
Homemade Basil Pesto
- Food Processor (or Pestle and Mortar)
- Fine Cheese Grater
- 2 very large handfuls of Fresh Basil Leaves (approx 2 packed cups worth - 60g/2.1oz)
- 1/2 - 2/3 cup / 100 - 150ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or as needed
- 4 tbsp Pine Nuts, optionally toasted (see notes)
- 1/2 cup / 40g freshly grated Parmesan (see notes)
- 1 small clove Garlic
- 1/4 tsp Salt, or to taste
- 1/8 tsp Black Pepper, or to taste
Pestle and Mortar
- Begin by crushing 1 small clove garlic with a pinch of salt to form a paste. Gradually add in basil and smash/grind to blend. Then add your pine nuts and parmesan. After, add in your oil around 1 tbsp at a time. Test for seasoning.
- Add 1 small clove garlic and pine nuts and blend until desired texture. Add basil and parmesan, blend and slowly add in your oil. Test for seasoning. Alternatively this can all be added at once and results will still be similar. This method just ensures there's no large chunks of garlic and the pine nuts and pulsed to preference.