How to Make a Mouthwatering Basil Pesto

Mouthwatering Basil Pesto

The more basil, the merrier, and pesto is one of my favorite condiments to keep on hand. Try these simple, delicious pesto recipe variations to brighten roasted veggies, meat dishes, pasta, salads & more!

I have always grown basil because I love it when it is very fresh straight from the garden. I’m usually very nostalgic about summer because it was an amazing and fun family time preparing food for winter during my childhood. There are so many wonderful things about summer, including the bounty of fresh herbs that grow everywhere. I use so many fresh herbs in my kitchen than simply I can’t do without them. I prefer to use fresh herbs in my cooking than dried, but sometimes, when I’m in a pinch, I use the dried herbs too. There is a distinct difference between them, and fresh herbs always will make your dish more flavorful.

I add fresh herbs to soups, stews, eggs, sauces, pasta, smoothies (basil in the smoothie is fantastic!), spreads, and sprinkle them in the salad. My other favorite thing to do with fresh herbs is to make pesto! It is easy to make and so versatile. The pesto adds a beautiful flavor to your dishes, making them more enjoyable to eat. Put a dollop on grilled fish or meat, roasted vegetables, vegetable noodles … you get the idea. With this very easy trick, you will make just anything tasting delicious!

Pesto has a long history, and it has its roots in ancient Rome. Traditional pesto is a blend of fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, and Parmesan cheese, and it is made in mortar and pestle. But there can be different variations of it like Cilantro pepitas pesto or walnuts pesto. You can turn your imagination and experiment. Let me know if you come up with some unique recipe.

How to make basil pesto?

Traditionally, pesto is always made to taste, based on the ingredients at hand. So don’t be afraid to adjust the ingredients or add some to your taste. Remember that basil is a potent aromatic herb, and a little goes a long way.

I used a food processor (a modern and easier way of making pesto).
Here are the steps:

  1. Pulse the garlic, nuts, and lemon juice until they’re finely chopped.
  2. Add the basil and pulse again.
  3. Pour the olive oil and pulse it again.
  4. Finally, add grated Parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast if you are vegan, or skip the cheese altogether) and pulse until combined. For vegan pesto, simply skip the cheese. Simple as that!

If you feel inspired or bored with this recipe, you can change it up a bit and make delicious variations.

Variations of pesto recipe

Here are some of my favorites…

  • Swap basil for different herbs like parsley or cilantro.
  • Use dark leafy greens such as arugula, kale, or spinach.
  • Swap out the pine nuts for seeds or any nut of your choice! My favorites are pepitas and walnuts.
  • Make nut-free pesto by using sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, or pepitas.
  • Add dark leafy greens to your pesto. I love to use kale and arugula.
  • Spice up the flavor! Add sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, roasted red bell pepper, black pepper, or red roasted pepper flakes.

How To Store Basil and Pesto

Basil with stalks: put basil in a glass of water in the fridge, changing the water daily. It will keep for up to a week.

You can also remove the leaves from the stems and wrap them in a dry paper towel. Then place it in the glass Tupperware and store it for a week.

Keep the pesto in a jar in the fridge for up to 7 days, or freeze it for later use.

A classic basil pesto recipe and some variations to try!

Classic Basil Pesto Recipe

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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: basil, pasta, pesto, pine nuts
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Calories: 225kcal
Author: Angie


Basic Basil Pesto:

  • 3/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (keep additional olive oil on hand if you want to have a smoother pesto)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese optional
  • nutritional yeast (optional for vegans)

Variation: replace the basil with:

  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Mint

Variation: in addition to the ingredients above

  • 1 cup kale 
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper
  • 5 artichoke hearts
  • 4 soaked sun-dried tomatoes

Variation: replace the pine nuts with:

  • Almonds
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts
  • Pepitas
  • Pecans
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Hemp Seeds


  • Combine the pine nuts, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, and pulse in a food processor until well chopped.
  • Add the basil and pulse until combined.
  • Drizzle in the olive oil and pulse until combined with the food processor running. Add the nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese, if using, and pulse to combine. For a smoother pesto, add more olive oil.


Calories: 225kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 12g | Monounsaturated Fat: 81g | Cholesterol: 22mg | Sodium: 1614mg | Potassium: 788mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 129IU | Vitamin C: 119mg | Calcium: 568mg | Iron: 5mg

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