Classic Italian Basil Pesto is a simple yet versatile sauce that can be tossed in pasta, spread on sandwiches, vegetables and pizza, used as a marinade and can even serve as a dip. You can make large batches of pesto and freeze a portion for future use, although I never get that far since we love it so much. It truly is a favorite and the best part is it's so simple to make, you'll never need (or want) store-bought again after making your own.
All that's needed are a food processor and a few simple ingredients, some of which you probably already have on hand or can purchase at any supermarket. Here's everything you'll need to make your pesto sauce, and a few quick notes about several key ingredients before we move on to the recipe.
Fresh Basil: You can find fresh basil at your local supermarket. The basil must be fresh, as dried basil will not work for this recipe. The basil leaves should be rinsed and either patted dry with a clean kitchen towel or a salad spinner to remove water from the leaves.
Pine Nuts: You can find pine nuts at most supermarkets, but you could also experiment with other nuts such as walnuts or almonds. I prefer to toast the pine nuts because I feel they add depth of flavor to the sauce, but this is not necessary and you can skip this step.
Parmesan Cheese: This is the best cheese to use for this recipe in my opinion; it's salty, nutty flavor really come through in the sauce. However, you can substitute with Romano cheese, if you prefer.
Lemon Juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice or bottled lemon juice will do just fine.
Classic Basil Pesto Sauce Recipe
2 1/2 Cups Fresh Basil
1 Cup Parmesan Cheese
3 Cloves Peeled Fresh Garlic
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Pine Nuts
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 1/2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
If toasting the pine nuts, preheat the oven to 375. Spread the pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast for 5-7 minutes or until they're golden brown, stirring them every two minutes or so. *Note* Pine nuts can burn very easily so keep a close eye on them. Remove from the oven. Let cool.
Combine the basil, and peeled garlic in a food processor and pulse just until broken down. Add the pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and lemon juice. Pulse to combine and slowly add the olive oil until you've reached the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Store in the refrigerator up to 5 days in an airtight container or jar.
We hope you enjoyed this classic recipe and find it to be a favorite in your home too. Leave us a comment below and let us know how it turned out or if you have any variations or substitutions for this recipe you'd like to share. We'd love to hear and learn from you.