Perfect Homemade Pesto (15-Minute)

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Perfect homemade pesto. Is there anything better? No, there isn’t. Inspired by many restaurants in Liguria (especially these ones), this basil pesto recipe is the closest thing to the real deal. Easy to make, made with just a few high-quality ingredients, and sinfully delicious, this perfect homemade pesto will be your fav, too.

What is Pesto?

There are many variations of pesto, but in this recipe, you’ll be making pesto in its most pure, magnificent, unadulterated form. Pesto is usually comprised of a nut (in this case, we’re using pine nuts- YUM), an oil (using extra virgin olive oil here), a green (basil for us), and usually a cheese (hello, Parmigiano Reggiano)!

Homemade Pesto Ingredients

One of the best parts about this homemade pesto recipe is that it only calls for a few key ingredients. Try to use really high-quality olive oil (this will greatly impact the taste and flavor of your homemade pesto), and even though pine nuts are not the cheapest nut out there, they’re 100% essential to getting that signature flavor that will keep you coming back for more.

  • pine nuts
  • garlic
  • kosher salt
  • Parmigiano Reggiano
  • fresh basil
  • extra virgin olive oil

What does pesto taste like?

I’ve you’ve never had pesto before, you are in for an absolute treat. The combination of extra virgin olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano, and basil all give this classic pesto a nutty, savory, rich flavor. It’s salty, it’s smooth, and it has a slight touch of earthiness from the fresh basil. Pestos vary in how smooth they are– some are perfectly smooth while others have small pieces of nuts and parm here and there. We prefer something in the middle.

MAKE NEXT: PINK SAUCE PASTA

How To Make Homemade Pesto

Homemade pesto is one of the easiest things you will ever whip up in your kitchen. The authentic way (helloooo Samin Nosrat #saltfatacidheat) is using a mortar and pestle, but we found that using a food processor yields an excellent and time-efficient result.

  • Step one: toast the pine nuts and garlic in a nonstick pan, separately. Toasting the pine nuts gives them a beautiful nutty, aromatic flavor, and toasting the garlic with the skin on will reduce some of the bite that raw garlic so often has, and prevent it from overpowering the other flavors in the pesto. Short on time? You can skip both of these steps.
  • Step two: blend everything including the pine nuts, garlic, salt, parm, fresh basil, and extra virgin olive oil until your mixture is blended and well incorporated. This will happen quicker than you think, and you’ll still want to see little flecks of basil and small pieces of parm/nuts. You don’t want a paste or something that’s completely homogenous.
  • Step three: devour. Eat with pasta, enjoy with your favorite focaccia recipe, spread it on everything and anything.

How To Make Pesto Pasta

Making a pasta dish with your homemade pesto is quite simple. Once the pesto is prepared, cook 12 ounces of pasta until al dente. In a dutch oven or large pan, combine the pesto, pasta, and a splash of hot pasta water. You can add a couple of tablespoons of butter if you prefer, but really the pesto has such high fat content with the pine nuts and oil, that you usually don’t need it. Top with additional grated Parmigiano Reggiano and enjoy hot!

How long does pesto last?

Pesto lasts 5-7 days in the refrigerator. To store your homemade pesto, put it in a jar and top with 1-2 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. This will prevent the surface of your pesto from browning.

Can you freeze homemade pesto?

You can 100% freeze pesto. If you plan to cook the entire recipe in the future, simply store it in an airtight container and freeze, or if you prefer to use it in smaller quantities, you can freeze pesto in ice cube trays and then transfer to ziplock bags and keep them in the freezer for quick use in the future.

MAKE NEXT: TORTELLINI ALLA CREMA

Print

Perfect Homemade Pesto

This homemade pesto recipe is simple, authentic, and is the closest thing you can get to the real deal in Italy.
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine European, Italian
Keyword best pesto, cinque terre, homemade pesto, liguria, ligurian pesto, pesto
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 4 people

Equipment

  • food processor

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves, skin on
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 oz. finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2 bunches or 4 cups of loosely packed fresh basil*, rinsed and patted dry, leaves removed from stems
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed

Instructions

  • In a small nonstick pan or skillet, toast the pine nuts over medium heat for 5-7 minutes. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to toss the pine nuts frequently to avoid burning and to encourage even browning. Once the pine nuts are aromatic and a deep golden brown, remove from heat and set aside. Using the same pan, toast the garlic cloves (skin still on) for 5-7 minutes, rotating to different sides every couple of minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Once the pine nuts and garlic have cooled, coarsely chop the garlic. Place all ingredients including the pine nuts, garlic, salt, Parmigiano Reggiano, basil, and extra virgin olive oil in the food processor. Turn food processor on and blend until smooth, but not completely pureed. You should still be able to see small flecks of basil and very small bits and pieces of nuts throughout. If your pesto is too thick, add 1-2 additional tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and pulse for a few more seconds. Taste the pesto and add more salt if needed.
  • If serving immediately with pasta**, cook 12 ounces of pasta in heavily salted water until al dente. In a dutch oven or large pan, toss to combine the pesto, al dente pasta, and a splash of the hot pasta water. Top with additional grated Parmigiano Reggiano and enjoy immediately!

Notes

*Knowing exactly what a bunch of basil is can be confusing. A 2-2.5 ounce package of basil from the store (the one that you'll find in the refrigerated herb section) is a great representation of one bunch. The basil from one potted basil plant that's sold at Trader Joe's or other grocery stores would also be considered one bunch. Trader Joe's also sells extra-large 4-ounce containers of basil, which would be the perfect amount for all of the basil needed for this recipe. 
**This pesto will go well with practically any pasta, but we love serving it with spaghetti, gemelli, or traditional Ligurian pastas such as trofie or linguine.

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  1. 5 stars
    Pesto is a wonderful, simple and tasty sauce from Liguria in Italy 🇮🇹 Think Cinque Terre! If pine nuts are not available or just too expensive, I have substituted macadamia nuts! 😉. For another simple twist to amazing Pesto, try combining your finished product with a cream sauce (bechamel)!! Buon Appetito FF Fans!

  2. 5 stars
    This was incredible! I made this for dinner yesterday with spaghetti and homemade sourdough, and my whole family devoured it (I was worried about my 3 year old, but he loved it). It’s just the right amount of flavor. Definitely throwing this into the rotation!