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Classic Basil Pesto

Homemade pesto couldn't be much further from store-bought pesto. Loaded with flavour, vibrant green, oh... and it's take just 15 minutes to make!

4 from 3 votes


By Brad Archer

Classic Basil Pesto Recipe

Have you ever tried making your own pesto? It’s so much fun and you get to enjoy the fruits of your labour with some seriously delicious results. I’ve got a classic basil pesto recipe that’s super easy and quick to make, so you don’t have to worry about spending all day in the kitchen.

Even though you can easily grab pesto from the supermarket, making your own is so rewarding and totally worth it.

Ingredients for Classic Basil Pesto

Ingredients for Making Basil Pesto 1

Basil: You can’t have a classic basil pesto without plenty of fresh basil leaves. I will say that using only the leaves will give you a smoother pesto. I’ve also experimented with swapping out the basil for other leafy greens like kale, spinach, rocket or sorrel, and it’s always turned out great!

If you’re not convinced then I’ve got a rocket pesto recipe here you could try.

Pine Nuts: Next up, we’ve got pine nuts. These little guys give your pesto body and help thicken it up. Don’t forget to toast them for a few minutes beforehand to really bring out their flavour.

If you’re feeling adventurous or don’t have any pine nuts on hand, try using hazelnuts, walnuts, peanuts, pecans, or even seeds like sunflower seeds. They’ll all add a unique twist to your pesto.

Garlic: I love using garlic in my pesto to add that classic Italian flavour. Just be careful not to overdo it – raw garlic can be pretty punchy! In my recipe, I use two cloves to get a subtle garlic flavour that won’t overpower the pesto.

Parmigiano Reggiano: Parmigiano Reggiano is traditionally used in pesto for its saltiness and creaminess. But don’t worry if you can’t find it – grana padano or pecorino are great substitutes that will still give you a delicious end result.

Olive Oil: Last but not least, olive oil is a must for getting the perfect pesto consistency. Slowly drizzle it in as you blend everything together to get that smooth, creamy texture. Without it, your pesto will just be a thick, lumpy paste – not exactly what we’re going for here!

Classic Basil Pesto

4 from 3 votes
Course: SidesCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Easy


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Cooking time


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This is the authentic way to make Genovese pesto


  • 20g 20g Pine Nuts

  • 50g 50g Basil Leaves

  • 80g 80g Parmigiano Reggiano, Grated

  • 2 2 Garlic Cloves, Peeled

  • 115ml 115ml Olive Oil

  • Salt


  • The only cooking you need to do is to toast the pine nuts. Heat a frying pan over medium heat, then add the pine nuts to the pan, completely dry. Shake them occasionally until they are toasted all over. This should take around 5 minutes.
  • Add the pine nuts along with the basil, cheese and garlic to the bowl of a food processor or blender and pulse until everything has broken down slightly.
  • Slowly pour the olive oil into the food processor as you blitz it until you have a smooth, vibrant green sauce.
  • Add a pinch of salt, then check for seasoning and taste. If the pesto is a little salty, then balance it out with a squeeze of lemon juice. If it isn’t salty enough, add another pinch of salt or a cheese grating.

How to Make Classic Basil Pesto

How to Use Basil Pesto

If you’ve made a jar of pesto, you’ll probably need a few ways to use it to avoid getting bored of it. Fortunately, pesto is more versatile than you might think…

Stir It Into Pasta (Obviously)

When writing a list of ways pesto can be used, you must start with pasta. It’s the go-to option for using pesto. It’s probably why you’ve bought it in the past. After all, it is one of the easiest midweek meals to knock together.

Cook pasta, stir through a spoonful of pesto and serve.

It doesn’t get much easier! But that shouldn’t stop you from mixing it up a little. Try cooking a handful of green beans and peas with your pasta before stirring through your pesto to bulk out your meal while adding some extra goodness.

Mix It Into Dips

You can make an easy cheat dip by stirring a spoonful of pesto through some cream cheese. Spread it on bread, dip vegetables, or scoop it up with potato wedges.

Add It to Mash

There are many ways to pimp up mashed potatoes, but I bet you’ve never considered adding pesto to it?

If you’re serving up garlicky chicken, pork saltimbocca or Milanese, then a pesto-spiked mashed potato would work perfectly alongside.

Use It as a Marinade

If you want to add Italian-inspired flavours to your meals, marinating things in pesto is an easy win. Stir a spoonful of pesto through peppers, courgettes, aubergine and onions for roasting or add a spoonful to diced chicken.

Create a Dressing With It

Make up a dressing as you usually would with olive oil, lemon and salt, then add a teaspoon of pesto. This works amazingly stirred through couscous, rice, grains, and salad leaves.

How to Store Basil Pesto

Unfortunately, it doesn’t last as long as we’d like in the fridge. But don’t worry, I’ve got a trick to help it stay fresher for longer!

First, pour your pesto into an airtight container. Then, add a thin layer of olive oil on top to help keep it from turning brown. Seal it up and pop it in the fridge – easy peasy!

Just keep in mind that your pesto will start to lose its flavour after 3 to 4 days. So, make sure to enjoy it while it’s still fresh and delicious. Trust me, it won’t last long once you taste how amazing it is!

Can You Freeze Basil Pesto?

You can freeze basil pesto for around 6 months. Spoon it into an ice cube tray, add a drizzle of olive oil to seal it and then pop the tray into the freezer. Once the cubes have frozen solid, pop them out and into a freezer bag.


Got questions about making this classic basil pesto and how to use it? Then check these common FAQs out:

Can You Make Pesto With Rocket?

Although basil is the go-to herb for making pesto, rocket would work well in its place. It would add pepperiness to your pesto, so it may need to be balanced with lemon juice or more cheese. We have a rocket pesto recipe you could try.

Can You Make Pesto With Parsley?

Yes, parsley can be used to make pesto. Blitz it with toasted nuts, a handful of grated parmesan, and plenty of olive oil.

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