A tried & true Mediterranean staple, Pesto! Made with pine nuts, garlic, parmesan reggiano, pecorino romano, & olive oil, this hearty homemade easy pesto is loaded with simple ingredients. Made with just 8 ingredients in 15 minutes or less, easy pesto is a versatile fridge staple that pairs with anything from pasta to a simple salad.
Pesto has everything there is to love about summer, all packed up in a highly addictive sauce. This recipe is based on the classic Genovese-style basil pesto, with loads of bright, herbaceous flavours thanks to the basil, a hearty texture and rich taste from the pine nuts & cheese. You can pair it with just about anything (plus it’s eat-straight-outta-the-jar good, no judgements here!), it stores well, & best of all, it takes less than 15 minutes to whip up, start-to-finish. A weeknight dinner & meal prep dream come true!
Easy Pesto Recipe Highlights
This easy sauce is…
- FAST. It’s made with 7 simple summer staples in less than 15 minutes, thanks to the kitchen BFF, A.K.A. the food processor.
- FLAVORFUL. This sauce is herbaceous thanks to an abundant amount of basil, rich in flavour thanks to a trusty rich trio of parmesan reggiano, pecorino romano & pine nuts, & a little spicy kick thanks to my favourite ingredient.
- VERSATILE. You can use it on pretty much everything – pasta, salads, sandwiches, roasted veggies, & more. Sky’s the limit! Because a scoop of pesto seriously makes everything better.
The Key Ingredients
- Basil leaves: Choose the fresh basil leaves you can find and avoid dark or discoloured leaves.
- Pecorino Romano & Parmesan Reggiano: I like to use a blend of these cheese for the ultimate cheese flavour, and they give the sauce its luxurious body and a salty bite. Always finely grate the cheese for an even texture. And at all costs, avoid the stuff in the green can!
- Pine nuts: these nuts are the most traditional for pesto, but if you don't like pine nuts or wish to swap it out for another nut, feel free to do so.
- Garlic: I can't even imagine a pesto without garlic; you can reduce the amount, but please don't omit.
- Olive oil: A great olive oil makes even in life a little better, don't you agree?
- Salt: just use a pinch and taste cause cheeses are already salt, so you won't need much.
- Lemon (optional): Traditionally, lemon isn't used in pesto. However, if you're going to be storing for later, it's good to add some to keep the bright green colour.
How to Make Pesto
I make pesto in a food processor. When blending pesto in a food processor, you'll be able to make this recipe extra quick. I prefer using the food processor over a blender because you're less likely to over-process pesto ingredients. Pesto is supposed to have texture, and it shouldn't be a smooth puree.
Processing the basil AFTER the nuts and cheese will result in a bright green pesto. When you over-chopping basil with a dull knife, you'll end up with dark and ugly-looking basil. Overworking the basil in the processor will cause a similar result.
Toast your nuts. Toasting the pine nut helps to deepen their nutty flavour and boost the flavour of the pesto. (And doesn't love a boost of flavour)
- The order of ingredients matters! To achieve a great pesto, you'll blend the nuts, garlic, & cheese first.
- Once the nutty mixture is coarsely ground, then you'll add the basil leaves and give a quick pulse to combine.
- Last but least, add the olive oil and pulse the mixture together. Traditional pesto is smashed, not pureed. You want lots of texture in your pesto so you can enjoy the layers of flavours!
- Adjust the flavours, add the salt and lemon if using.
- Place in a jar, then add a splash of olive oil on top to seal the deal if you're planning on saving some for later.
Yes and no. There are many healthy elements to pesto, and it can be consumed in any healthy diet. However, pesto is fairly high in fat, therefore, high in calories, and you can easily go into a calorie surplus with too much pesto. You can read more about pesto from a nutritional standpoint HERE
Store the pesto in an airtight container for up to one week. When storing the fridge, add a drizzle of olive to the top to seal the pesto from oxygen. Pesto also freezes really well. You can store up to 3 months without losing flavour. After 3 months, you can still eat it, but the flavour may be affected.
Traditionally, pesto was made with a mortar and pestle. So if you have a mortar & pestle, you sure can give it a try. However, you can also use a blender and save your arm. 😉
It's not recommend to use the basil stems in pesto due to their strong bitter taste.
No. When trying this method, I found no difference in colour in the long run. The way to achieve a bright green pesto is no over-processing the basil and using a splash of lemon juice if you're going to be using it at a later date.
My number one recommendation would be cashews or seed flower seeds. However, you can use any kind of nut or seeds.
- Food processor
- ⅓ cup pine nutes toasted
- ¼ cup Parmesan Reggiano cheese finely grated
- ¼ cup Pecorino Romano cheese finely grated
- 1 large garlic clove roughly chopped
- 2 cup basil leaves
- 6 Tablespoons Olive oil
- ½ lemon juiced
- 1 pinch salt
- Add the cheese, pine nuts, and garlic to a food processor and process until you've achieved a crumb.
- Once the nutty mixture is coarsely ground, then you'll add the basil leaves and give a quick pulse to combine. The basil should look roughly chopped. Remove the lid and scrape down the sides.
- With the processor running on low speed, slowly pour the extra virgin olive oil. Do not run the processor too long; you want to have a little bit of texture to your basil pesto.
- Remove the blade from the food processor, then add a pinch of salt and lemon. (if using) Taste and adjust to your liking.
- You eat the pesto straight away or store it in a jar with a tight-fitting lid for up to 1 week.
- If storing for later, add a generous drizzle of olive oil to the top of the pesto to form an oily seal so the pesto doesn't turn dark. Simply stir the oil into the sauce before using.
- If you freeze the pesto in a tightly closed freezer-safe jar, use the pesto within 3 months.
- For smaller amounts, pour the pesto into ice cube trays and freeze until hard. Once frozen, transfer the pesto cubes to a freezer-safe bag and freeze for up to 3 months.