How to Make Homemade Pesto

A bowl of homemade pesto

If basil is part of your herb garden, then you’re probably noticing it’s bursting at the seams right now. There are only so many sliced tomato and mozzarella salads to make. So what to do with the rest of the fresh basil? Make pesto! While there are delicious store-bought versions, pesto can be made at home in minutes. Once you try this homemade pesto, you may never turn back.

Pesto, also known as pesto all genovese, is an Italian sauce that originated centuries ago in Genoa, Italy. Its name comes from the Italian verb pestare which means to crush or pound. In the olden days, pesto was made using a marble mortar and wooden pestle. Nowadays, a food processor does most of the work.

So, what is in pesto? Fresh basil is the main ingredient. In the classic version, aromatic basil is mixed with zesty garlic, fruity olive oil, toasted pine nuts, savory sea salt, and creamy Parmesan cheese. This sauce is so versatile, though, ingredients can be adapted. Replace basil with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, kale, or cilantro. Pine nuts are often swapped for walnuts, almonds, or pepitas.

How can pesto be used? Pesto is delicious mixed with pasta. Use it as a base for homemade pizza. Try tossing it in a tomato salad. Or crusty bread is even better when dipped into pesto.

Before getting creative with ingredients, we suggest giving our version a try. A food processor does most of the work but, taking a cue from old-fashioned recipes, freshly grated Parmesan cheese is folded in with the basil mixture. This makes the pesto fuller and adds a softens the sauce. This bright, wonderful homemade pesto is soon to be one of your favorite flavors of summer.


  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2/3 cup light tasting olive oil
  • 2 tsp fresh chopped garlic
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt (or more to taste)
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


1. Put the basil, pine nuts, 1/3 cup of olive oil, garlic, and salt in a food processor.

2. Pulse 5 or 6 times. Scrape down the sides of the food processor.

3. Turn the food processor to its lowest speed. Through the lid, in a slow and steady stream, pour the remaining olive oil into the food processor until the oil is combined with the basil mixture and nicely pureed.

4. Spoon the pesto into a bowl. Fold in the Parmesan cheese.

5. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve. Click here to save this recipe to your Recipe Box.

Additional Notes

  • To refrigerate or freeze the pesto, place the pesto in an air-tight container. Pour a thin layer of olive oil over the top of the pesto. Store in the fridge for two to three days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
  • If desired, the Parmesan cheese can be blended in with the food processor. After streaming in the olive oil, add the cheese and blend until smooth.