Of course you can buy ready-made pesto – I often do if I’m short on time. But nothing can compare to homemade fresh basil pesto. You can make it as garlicky, cheesy or salty as you like. You can also add in extras or make some great swaps (check out the recipe card at the end of the post for some ideas).
A super simple recipe, but one that packs a real flavour punch!
Pesto is the base for so many great recipes. My go-to sauce to throw together a quick pasta dinner, add to baked chicken, or spread on crusty grilled bread before topping with juicy chopped tomatoes for a great version of bruschetta.
📋 What do we need?
- Fresh basil – and plenty of it
- Olive oil – try to go for a good quality extra-virgin olive oil if you can
- Garlic – a must for that fragrant garlicky flavour
- Parmesan (or vegetarian Italian-style hard cheese if you want a vegetarian version)
- Pine nuts – for that creamy nuttiness
- Salt and Pepper
🔪 How to make it
Full recipe with detailed steps in the recipe card at the end of this post.
- Pulse basil, garlic, pine nuts, grated parmesan and black pepper and salt together for a few seconds in a small food processor (or mini chopper or even a blender). This helps to initially break up the garlic and pine nuts.
- Then, with the motor running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream. If you’re using a blender (I sometimes use my Nutribullet), simply add in half the oil, blend, give it a good shake, then add the rest of the oil and blend again.
- Give it a taste, then add in more salt (crushed Maldon is lovely, but table salt is also fine).
- It’s ready to serve!
👩🍳PRO TIP Just add a little (Maldon) salt before blending, then taste after blending and add more salt then. This ensures you get the seasoning just right. Also, adding the Maldon salt after blending means you get that lovely salty crunch.
🍽️ What to serve it with
🍲 More fantastic homemade sauces
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Simple Pesto Recipe
Nothing can compare to homemade fresh basil pesto. You can make it as garlicky, cheesy or salty as you like. A brilliant, versatile ingredient to add to lots of recipes – or just stir through pasta!
Add the basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, black pepper and salt to a food processor and pulse for about 10 seconds to break up the garlic and pine nuts.
50 g large bunch (50g/1.75oz) fresh basil leaves, 2 cloves garlic, 40 g (3 tbsp) pine nuts, 30 g (⅓ cup) freshly grated Parmesan, ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper, ¼ tsp Maldon salt
Turn the food processor back on and pour in the oil in a steady stream – which should take about 10 seconds.
90 ml (⅓ cup) olive oil
Check for consistency – if you like it a little chunky, it’s ready to go. If you like it smoother, whizz for another 10-20 seconds, until the texture is to your liking.
Taste the pesto and add in more salt if needed. I usually add in approx. ½ tsp lightly crushed Maldon salt.
½ tsp Crushed Maldon Salt
Store the pesto in sealed jar, for up to a week, in the fridge. It may lose a little of the vibrant colour during this time, but will still taste great.
If you are storing in the refrigerator for more than a day, I like to add in a tablespoon of lemon juice to help maintain the vibrant colour.
Alternatively, you can freeze the pesto in portions (I use an ice cube tray) – then defrost in the fridge or add the frozen pesto cubes directly to the dish you’re making – it should defrost pretty quickly with heat.
- Swap the pine nuts for walnuts, almonds or cashews
- Swap the Parmesan for Italian-style hard-cheese for a vegetarian version. You can also swap it for cheddar for a lightly different flavour
- Add in extra herbs or leaves – such as chives, parsley, coriander (cilantro), kale, rocket or watercress.
- Add in a green chilli before blending, or stir in ¼ tsp chilli flakes after blending for a kick of heat.
Nutritional information is approximate, per TABLESPOON of the pesto.
Calories: 152kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 2gFat: 16gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 139mgPotassium: 59mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 364IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 47mgIron: 1mg
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