classic homemade pesto

One of my favorite parts of summer is eating fresh basil from my herb garden.  Basil is a great topping for salads, pizza and pasta dishes.  But my favorite way to use basil is in homemade pesto.  I could eat it on just about anything.   Pesto is so flavorful and can take a boring dish and make it much more exciting.  It’s not only delicious but it’s very versatile too.  Take a look at some of my favorite uses for pesto:

  • Whole wheat pasta mixed with pesto and topped with a little parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
  • As a marinade or topping for chicken, fish or shrimp.
  • As a pizza topping instead of red sauce.
  • Use instead of mayonnaise on sandwiches, burgers or wraps.
  • Mixed in with brown rice or quinoa.
  • Mix a little into your favorite soup.  My favorite soup with pesto is this Chicken Chili with Pesto recipe.
  • Mixed with tuna for tuna melts.  Top with a little cheese and tomato.  I’ve made a variation of this recipe and it’s great.
  • Used in a pesto grilled cheese or panini.  You really should give that one a try!
  • Mix in just a little with scrambled eggs.
  • Mix in just a little with your salad dressing for extra flavor on your salad.
  • Mix a little pesto with some olive oil and make these roasted potatoes (just leave out the rosemary.)

An important thing to note about pesto is that there is no right or wrong amount to use of each of the ingredients.  It’s all about personal preference.  I have been known to add in extra basil because I love the taste.  Use this recipe as a starting point and increase/decrease amounts as you see fit.

Classic Homemade Pesto (and 11 Suggestions for Using It)
Serves: 1 cup
  • 2-3 cups packed basil leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • ⅓ cup pine nuts (Traditional pesto uses pine nuts but you can substitute walnuts if you want to be more economical. I've done it plenty of times and it's still delicious.)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • pepper to taste
  1. Warm the garlic and pine nuts in a pan over medium heat for several minutes, until the pine nuts just start to brown. This roasts the nuts and garlic and enhances the flavor. (This step is totally optional. I skip it sometimes and the pesto is still delicious.)
  2. Once back at room temperature process the nuts and garlic until chopped.
  3. Add in the Parmesan and pulse until combined. Next, add in the basil and pulse several times until combined. Scrape down the sides as needed.
  4. Slowly drizzle in the oil while processing.
  5. Add in the salt and pepper and scrape down the sides. Pulse again until well blended.
  6. Use or freeze. You can store the pesto in the fridge for several days. It may brown a little on top but it still tastes great. You can also freeze the unused pesto. (see notes)
Most pesto recipes say to leave the cheese out if you are going to freeze it but I freeze mine all the time with the cheese and I think it still tastes great. If you want to leave the cheese out you just add in the cheese when you are ready to use the pesto.


Homemade Pesto Method


freezing pesto

Freeze in cubes and then transfer to a freezer safe bag. Pull out as needed.

3 thoughts on “Classic Homemade Pesto (and 11 Suggestions for Using It)

    • I’m glad you guys liked it! It haven’t put pesto on zucchini noodles yet but I think that combination sounds great. Thanks for the feedback, Lisa. I hope you’ve had a good start to the summer. 🙂

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