The Very Best Basil Pesto Recipe (and Tips)

Basil Pesto is simple enough to make but this recipe for the BEST Basil Pesto has a few tricks that make it absolutely outstanding. Quick, easy and freezer friendly, blend up a big batch to take you through the winter months.

Basil Pesto in a glass jar with a wooden spoonful of basil pesto on a white striped napkin and basil leaves in the background from

I have a little secret…..I’m a terrible gardener.  To be more specific, I’m a terrible vegetable gardener and I’m going to blame my husband for the poorly selected plot of land I was allowed to try my hand at gardening with. (I promise this is related to Basil Pesto….just bear with me.) 🙂

For my very first “in the ground” vegetable garden he gave me a small area next to a fence on the south side of the house….which would be fine if only the house didn’t block the morning sun…..and a large group of trees didn’t block the afternoon sun.  And then the late afternoon sun is blocked, yet again, by that fence I mentioned before.

I knew before I plunged the shovel into the dirt to break ground for my vegetable garden that this was going to be a lost cause but I forged ahead….for the past two summers. I got a couple cucumbers, a dead zucchini plant, a two inch carrot, TONS of kale (I hate kale) and a boatload of green tomatoes.

Basil leaves on a blue background from

My garden haul was the leverage I needed to convince him that I needed a new spot for my garden next year and the fact that my herb garden is always overloaded with fresh herbs because it’s in a VERY sunny spot was the clincher. I have a landscaper plotting out next years garden as we “speak.”

The Very Best Basil Pesto Sauce in a glass jar with a wooden spoon on a blue background with basil leaves in the background from

Since I do very well in the herb gardening area, I always have a TON of fresh basil. The thing about basil is you need to stay on top of it or it will go to seed. Pinching off the ends to ensure it doesn’t flower and then die off is something I do several times a week. And also…..I make tons of Basil Pesto from scratch.

It’s a surefire way to use up what otherwise would just go to waste. And making big batches of it to freeze helps me have a little taste of summer in the middle of winter.

Pasta with Basil Pesto Sauce in a white bowl with a jar of basil pesto in the background from

What is Basil Pesto?

Basil Pesto is a flavorful sauce made with fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese.  There are several variations of basil pesto, sometimes I like to add crushed red pepper to make it a little spicy.

Overhead shot of the Very Best Basil Pesto in a glass jar with a teak spoon on a white napkin from

How do you make fresh Basil Pesto?

Fresh Basil Pesto from scratch is so easy to make. Place all the ingredients, basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and cheese in a food processor or blender and process until finely chopped and a loose sauce begins to form. I like to leave it a little chunkier so it doesn’t form a paste but other recipes process until a paste begins to form.

Toasted Pine Nuts in a skillet for the Very Best Basil Pesto recipe from

How do you freeze fresh Basil Pesto?

Making big batches of Homemade Basil Pesto and freezing it is one of my favorite things to do with it.  It’s a great way to meal prep your way through the winter months.

To freeze your Basil Pesto, fill up the wells of ice cube trays and place in the freezer. Freeze until firm, then pop the frozen sauce out of the tray. Place the Basil Pesto Sauce cubes into a freezer bag and store in the freezer until ready to use.

To thaw, simply place in a saucepan over low heat and thaw, stirring occasionally or heat in the microwave until thawed.

Ingredients for the Very Best Pesto recipe in the bowl of a KitchenAid Food Processor from

How do you make the BEST Basil Pesto?

With these simple tips, you can make the Very Best Basil Pesto in just 5 minutes:

  • To maximize the flavor of your pesto, toast the pine nuts for a few minutes (be sure not to burn them) until golden. This step makes them a bit more buttery than raw pine nuts.
  • Lemon….I know it’s not traditional but I like the bright, fresh flavor lemon zest gives the pesto….and it helps keep the color vibrant and green by preventing oxidation.
  • Process in batches….I do half the ingredients in the food processor and process until very finely chopped….almost paste like, THEN I add the remaining ingredients to the processor and pulse so there are larger pieces of ingredients thought out the sauce. Bigger pieces means BIGGER flavor!

Basil Pesto in the bowl of a food processor from

I love to use the very Best Basil Pesto in soooo many recipes like this super easy Caprese Tortellini Salad and this AHHHMAZING Grilled Chicken recipe. It’s so totally easy and extra cheesy….a big hit with the kids!

Spaghetti with basil pesto sauce on a white plate with a rainbow napkin from

It’s also fantastic as a sandwich spread like in this Chicken Cutlet Sandwich or these super simple Meatball Sliders….both great recipes for game day!

Want to see what else we have NOT growing in our garden…..check us out on Instagram!

Basil pesto in a glass jar with basil in the background and wooden spoon from

The Very Best Basil Pesto Recipe

Course: Condiment, sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: basil pesto
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 12
Calories: 115 kcal
Author: Kellie

Made with garden fresh basil, this Basil Pesto Recipe is simple to make in just a few minutes with very minimal prep work.



  • 4 ounces pine nuts
  • 4 cups fresh basil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup coarsely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste


  1. Add the pine nuts to a small skillet over medium heat and toast until golden brown, approximately 2-3 minutes. Set aside.

  2. In the bowl of a food processor, add 1/2 the pine nuts, 3 cups basil, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup cheese and lemon zest. Process the ingredients for approximately 30 seconds or until the ingredients are finely chopped. 

  3. While the food processor is still running on low speed, slowly drizzle in 3/4 cup of olive oil and continue processing until a smooth paste begins to form. Stop the food processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

  4. Add the remaining pine nuts, basil, garlic and cheese to the bowl. Pulse the ingredients until finely chopped.

  5. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the pesto sauce to a bowl and stir in the remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

  6. Store the basil pesto sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

To keep the pesto sauce from oxidizing, top it with a thin layer of olive oil.

Nutrition Facts
The Very Best Basil Pesto Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 115 Calories from Fat 90
% Daily Value*
Fat 10g15%
Saturated Fat 2g13%
Cholesterol 5mg2%
Sodium 134mg6%
Potassium 90mg3%
Carbohydrates 2g1%
Fiber 0g0%
Sugar 0g0%
Protein 4g8%
Vitamin A 485IU10%
Vitamin C 2.4mg3%
Calcium 116mg12%
Iron 0.8mg4%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


24 comments on “The Very Best Basil Pesto Recipe (and Tips)”

  1. This is perfect pesto! Just the way my mom made it!

  2. I absolutely love pesto- have you ever tried it on grilled cheese? This would be perfect! I love that this is pesto, without a bunch of extra ingredients, and it’s perfect!

  3. Hey “KELLIE” Your post is very I love This pesto recipes to eat Thank you great man for sharing awesome post

  4. I love pesto it is my favorite thing to make with fresh basil. Definitely using your tips next time!

  5. Love homemade pesto! This recipe looks like a keeper!

  6. Hello!
    Can this pesto be frozen!
    I have soooooo much basil and looking for a pesto recipe I can freeze.

  7. I would like to have a step by step recipe for the basil pesto recipe

  8. I always wonder how to measure something like basil leaves. How tight do you pack them in cup? Seems really subjective. Maybe someone has measured by weight? This has inspired me to go out and buy basil plants for summer.

    • It really is subjective, I lightly pack them in the measuring cup but if you want more basil….add more basil. I hope you give it a try….it’s my favorite thing to make in the summer!

  9. I have read that it is better to freeze the pesto without the cheese in it. Have you tried it both ways? Does it do fine in the freezer with the cheese?

  10. I freeze my basil pesto to use throughout the year.  I leave about ¼” of olive oil on the top to prevent oxidation during its time in the freezer.  It stays bright green and taste fresh after thawing.  I do freeze mine as a finished pesto with the cheese in it, no issues.

  11. Thanks so much for posting, also enjoyed the video. Made 2 cups for me, is that what you get too? It doesn’t really look like it needs the last 1/4 cup of oil, so I think I’ll wait on that. Using it tonight to mix with a pasta, roasted green bean and potato dish. It smells fabulous and I have no doubt it will be fabulous!

    • I get about 2 cups, also. The last bit of oil helps to keep it preserved and green, I find if I use less that basil will oxidize and turn really dark.

  12. I love your recipe. Today, I made your recipe, It is quite delish. I love making variations of pesto. My favorite is broccoli, spinach, and mint with a splash of lemon. It is so good and tasty on anything like bread, veggies, crackers. Thank you for sharing your recipe.

  13. I’ve been making this recipe for years and also freezing in ice cube trays.  After many years, I tried a batch without the pine nuts and found no discernable difference in taste.   One of many pesto uses that we love is a grilled pesto, tomato, and burrata
    Sandwich – a wonderful riff on a Caprese salad.

  14. This recipe really is the best, and I’ve tried many. The lemon zest makes it perfect.  Thank you.  

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