Basil Pesto Sauce

Pesto brings that perfect amount of extra flavor a recipe needs. A delicious blend of basil, parsley, olive oil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and garlic. You can practically use this recipe for basil pesto on everything and it only takes 5 minutes to make.

wooden spoon in jar of basil pesto sauce with text overlay for facebook


 

A classic Pesto Sauce is one of the most versatile condiments out there. Made with a core of basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and cheese, there are a great many variations.

Our family has some Italian heritage, so pasta is often a one of our recipes for dinner. We all love a good marinara or garlicky alfredo sauce but I adore the simplicity and brightness of this basil-based sauce. Plus, it has cheese. 

What is Basil Pesto Sauce?

Basil pesto combines just a few simple ingredients to make a quick, easy sauce. While the sweet basil with its fresh flavor is the key ingredient, salty cheese and crunchy pine nuts impart their own flavor and texture. Flat parsley helps to round it all out with its mild flavor. The final product is a beautiful bright green sauce.

The best part about pesto is that it’s such an incredibly versatile sauce. It makes a great pasta sauce, of course, going with long to short shapes, and it’s even great for stuffed pastas like ravioli. It’s also a great addition to meats and vegetables and you can even add it to butter or other sauces

I also love that it’s so easy to make. Just grab your ingredients, toss them in the food processor and — voilá — you have your sauce. It comes together in mere minutes.

If this is your first time making your own pesto, you’re in for a treat. Next time you think about buying a jar, turn to this recipe instead.

straight on shot of basil pesto sauce

Ingredients

  • Pine nuts– Pine nuts add just the right amount of texture and flavor to pesto. If you want even more nutty flavor, you can toast them before adding them to the recipe.
  • Parmesan Reggiano cheese– Make sure to grate this cheese so that it’s fine enough to mix well and combine thoroughly with the rest of the ingredients. It’s best to grate it yourself for the freshest flavor. 
  • Fresh garlic cloves– What Italian food is complete without the addition of garlic? You can add more or less to taste. 
  • Fresh basil leaves– Make sure to pack these tightly when measuring. This ingredient is the star of the show, after all, so you want to make sure to have plenty of it.
  • Flat parsley– Flat parsley brings a brightness to this recipe. It’s also far more flavorful than the curly-leafed variety. 
  • Extra-virgin olive oil– Don’t skimp on this ingredient. With so few ingredients, pesto relies on all of them being high quality to get the best end results. 
  • Fine sea salt and pepper– Use these to round out the flavor of the other ingredients.
angled shot of basil pesto sauce

How to Use Basil Pesto

  • Toss with your favorite pasta, especially varieties like cavatappi, fettuccine, and capellini
  • Make pesto chicken by saucing it after you take it off the grill or out of the oven
  • Dip veggies it it or use it as a salad dressing
  • Spread it on your favorite bread (focaccia and ciabatta are great choices as well as garlic bread)
  • Mix with butter to make a colorful compound butter
  • Dip french fries, mozzarella sticks, or baked zucchini sticks
  • Elevate your vegetables by brushing them with pesto before roasting
  • Kick up an alfredo sauce by adding a dollop or two
  • Mix with your ricotta when making stuffed shells, manicotti, or lasagna
  • Drizzle over a caprese salad
  • Add bright color and flavor by making a pesto pizza
  • Mix it with sour cream or Greek yogurt for a fun dip
overhead shot of basil pesto sauce

Variations

  • Sunflower seeds– If you’re allergic to pine nuts or you just don’t have any on hand, sunflower seeds are a solid swap. 
  • Greens– For a milder pesto flavor, add baby spinach or increase the amount of fresh parsley.
  • Roast the garlic– Instead of just mincing it, try roasting the garlic with olive oil for a whole new flavor.
  • Cheese– You can substitute another hard cheese for the parmesan cheese. Some great options are asiago, grana padano, and pecorino romano.
  • Nutritional yeast– You can substitute nutritional yeast for the cheese if you are vegan or following a dairy-free diet.
  • Lemon juice- Adding citrus to this sauce is a great way to brighten it even more.
  • Red pepper– If you want to add a little heat, toss in some crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Ditch the basil– Swap out the basil for sun dried tomatoes, garlic scapes or scallions
spoon in jar of basil pesto sauce

Storage

Store any leftover basil pesto sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week or in a freezer bag or container in the freezer for three months.

Alternatively, spoon the mixture into an ice cube tray to make pesto cubes. Store in the freezer so that you have it ready in small portions whenever you need to use it. 

collage of basil pesto sauce for pinterest

How to Use Pesto Sauce

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Pesto Grilled Cheese Recipe

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Caprese Burgers are smothered with a red pesto, fresh mozzarella and basil all on a flame-grilled burger. The best gourmet burger out there! 
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jar of pesto sauce with text overlay for pinterest
spoon in jar of basil pesto sauce

Basil Pesto Recipe

5 from 9 votes
Pesto Sauce made with pine nuts, fresh basil and parsley is perfect as a pasta sauce, marinade, sandwich spread or even dipping sauce. Pesto Sauce also freezes well and can be canned.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 4

Equipment

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Place the pine nuts in a large food processor. Pulse until a paste forms.
  • Add the parmesan reggiano cheese, garlic, basil, parsley, olive oil, fine salt and pepper. Pulse until a grainy pesto is formed.
  • Toss with pasta, make pesto bread, use a marinade for chicken or fish, or use as a salad dressing. This can be refrigerated for up to a week.
  • If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings!

Nutrition

Calories: 172 kcal, Carbohydrates: 2 g, Protein: 3 g, Fat: 17 g, Saturated Fat: 2 g, Cholesterol: 2 mg, Sodium: 63 mg, Potassium: 118 mg, Vitamin A: 980 IU, Vitamin C: 8.1 mg, Calcium: 76 mg, Iron: 1.2 mg
Author: Jessica Formicola
Calories: 172
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: basil pesto, basil pesto recipe, basil pesto sauce, homemade pesto
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Jessica Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and chef behind Savory Experiments. You might see her on the Emmy- nominated TV show Plate It! or on bookshelves as a cookbook author. Jessica is a Le Cordon Bleu certified recipe developer and regularly contributed to Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal and more!

Read More About Jessica

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Questions and Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    This is a perfect way to use all that basil in our garden. I typically buy jarred pesto, but this recipe makes it super easy to make my own. Thanks!