This classic basil pesto recipe is the perfect condiment for all your grilled vegetables, pasta, bread and meats. It can brighten almost any dish and is ready in 15 minutes.
What is Pesto?
Basil pesto is a traditional Italian sauce that originated in the region of Liguria, located in northwest Italy.
It is a vibrant green sauce made primarily from fresh basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. The ingredients are typically combined in a food processor or mortar and pestle to create a smooth and flavorful paste.
Originally pesto was prepared using a mortar and pestle, but usually a food processor or blender is used now.
Basil pesto has gained popularity worldwide and is enjoyed as a versatile condiment, pasta sauce, spread, or marinade.
Why Make This Basil Pesto Recipe?
Basil pesto has a great depth of flavor that’s difficult to match with store-bought alternatives.
By using fresh basil leaves, and high-quality ingredients like extra-virgin olive oil, you can a far richer, more vibrant and authentic flavor.
You can also easily adjust the ratios to suit your taste preferences. If you prefer a more garlicky pesto or want to experiment with additional herbs or nuts, then you can easily adapt it.
Making basil pesto at home can also help save you some money. Store-bought pesto jars can often be pricier for smaller quantities.
You can often make a larger batch for a fraction of the cost. Simply store it well and you can use it when needed.
Step 1: Toast the Pine Nuts. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the pine nuts until they turn light golden brown and become fragrant. Stir occasionally to ensure even toasting. This process will take about 3-4 minutes. Remove the pine nuts from the skillet and set them aside to cool.
Step 2: Blend the Ingredients. In a food processor or blender, combine the basil leaves, toasted pine nuts, garlic cloves, grated Parmesan cheese, salt, and black pepper. Pulse a few times to break down the ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula occasionally.
Step 3: Drizzle in the Olive Oil. While the food processor or blender is running, gradually drizzle in the extra-virgin olive oil. Slowly adding the oil whilst the processor runs helps it emulsify and stops the oil from separating. Continue blending until all the ingredients are well combined and the pesto reaches your desired texture.
Step 4: Taste and Adjust. Take a small spoonful of the pesto and give it a taste. Add more salt or pepper if needed. You can also add more Parmesan cheese for a stronger cheesy flavor. Adjust the ingredients according to your personal preferences.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make this basil pesto recipe.
- Basil: Basil is the star ingredient of pesto, providing its signature fresh and aromatic flavor. It adds a sweet, slightly peppery, and slightly minty taste that is characteristic of traditional pesto sauce.
- Garlic: Garlic brings a pungent and robust flavor to the pesto. It adds depth and complexity, balancing the herbaceousness of basil with its savory notes. Garlic also contributes a subtle spiciness that enhances the overall taste.
- Pine Nuts: Pine nuts provide a delicate nutty flavor and creamy texture to the pesto. They add richness and a hint of sweetness to complement the herbal notes of basil. Toasting the pine nuts before blending intensifies their flavor, making them a perfect complement to the other ingredients.
- Parmesan Cheese: Parmesan cheese contributes a salty, nutty, and umami taste. It adds a savory depth that enhances the overall flavor profile and provides a delightful tang. Parmesan cheese also lends a creamy texture and helps bind the ingredients together.
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: Olive oil serves as both a flavor enhancer and a key component of the sauce’s smooth consistency. It brings a fruity, peppery, and slightly bitter taste to the pesto, adding richness and depth. The quality of the olive oil greatly influences the overall flavor, so opting for extra-virgin olive oil ensures a more robust and authentic Mediterranean taste.
What to Serve with Basil Pesto
- Pasta: this is a classic combination and for good reason. Pasta like spaghetti, linguine, or fusilli are excellent choices.
- Salads: salads such as caprese salads or Panzanella salads work really well with some basil pesto.
- Grilled Vegetables: Bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and asparagus are just a few options that work wonderfully. The smoky flavors combine nicely with the freshness of the basil pesto.
- Bruschetta: combined with some basil pesto, this makes for a perfect appetizer for gatherings or a light lunch option. I really like this bruschetta recipe.
- Grilled Chicken or Fish: this pesto marinated grilled chicken or pesto grilled salmon are delicious ways to add pesto to meat, enhancing the natural flavors of the protein and adding a burst of freshness.
How to Store
When you have finished the recipe, transfer the pesto into a clean glass jar or an airtight container. If you’re not using it immediately, make sure to cover the surface of the pesto with a thin layer of olive oil to prevent oxidation.
The pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Tips for Making the Best Basil Pesto
- Add Extra Flavor By Toasting the Pine Nuts: Toasting the pine nuts before adding them to the pesto can enhance their flavor and add a pleasant nuttiness. Simply heat a dry skillet over medium heat, add the pine nuts, and stir frequently until they turn golden brown. Be sure to watch them closely, as they can burn quickly.
- Gradually Add the Olive Oil: Gradual Addition of Olive Oil: When adding olive oil to the pesto, do it gradually. This ensures that the pesto emulsifies and the oil doesn’t separate. Start with a smaller amount and gradually add more until you achieve your desired texture. Some prefer a thicker pesto, while others prefer a more pourable consistency.
- Choose the Best Basil: Choose fresh, vibrant basil leaves for the best flavor. Look for leaves that are bright green and free from any discoloration or wilting. If possible, pick basil leaves from your own herb garden.
Classic Basil Pesto
This basil pesto recipe is the perfect condiment to add freshness to veggies, meat, pasta and bread. Ready in just 15 minutes.
- 2 cups (50g) fresh basil leaves
- 3 cloves of garlic
- ¼ cup (25g) pine nuts
- ½ cup (50g) grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup (120ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp salt (adjust to taste)
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Toast the Pine Nuts: toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet for about 3-4 until they turn light golden brown and fragrant. Set aside to cool.
- Blend the Ingredients: In a food processor or blender, combine the basil leaves, toasted pine nuts, garlic cloves, grated Parmesan cheese, salt, and black pepper. Pulse a few times to break down the ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula between pulses
- Drizzle in the Olive Oil: Gradually drizzle the olive oil whilst the blender is running to emulsify the pesto. Continue blending until all the ingredients are well combined and the pesto reaches your desired texture.
- Taste and Adjust: Taste the pesto and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Amount Per Serving Calories 23Total Fat 2gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 2gCholesterol 0mgSodium 208mgCarbohydrates 1gFiber 0gSugar 0gProtein 0g
Want More Delicious, Mediterranean Style Recipes?
If you’ve cooked this recipe, be sure to leave a comment or review! But if you’re looking for more:
- Find more Mediterranean-style recipes on our website.
- Try our free 7 day Mediterranean diet plan with 20 recipes.
- Get our 4-week Mediterranean diet plan, Med in 28 plan, that makes following the Mediterranean diet a breeze!