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Pesto Sauce

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Homemade pesto sauce is easy to make, and it’s good on just about everything, from pastas to pizzas to salads.

One of my favorite things about summer cooking is stepping out my back door to pick fresh herbs from my potted herb garden. It always amazes me how the tiny seedlings I plant in May grow into more herbs than I can possibly use up in August. Right now, my basil plant is overflowing, which means it’s time to make pesto sauce. Pesto, or pesto alla genovese, is a vibrant, garlicky green sauce that originated in Genoa, Italy. It’s traditionally made with a mortar and pestle, but most modern versions call for using a food processor. Pesto is a versatile sauce that can be used on just about everything, from pastas to sandwiches to salads. It freezes well, too.

potted herb garden

What You’ll Need To Make Pesto Sauce

Traditional pesto is made with garlic, nuts, salt, basil leaves, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and extra-virgin olive oil. It’s important to use top-quality ingredients, as the flavors really shine through. 

ingredients for pesto sauce

For the cheese, be sure to use authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy; domestic Parmesan is not the same thing. You can always tell if the cheese is authentic by looking at the rind, which is embossed with the name over and over. If the cheese is already grated, it should be labeled “Parmigiano-Reggiano,” not “Parmesan.”

For the nuts, I use walnuts instead of the more traditional pine nuts for a few reasons. First, I always seem to have walnuts in the house (pine nuts can be very pricey). Second, in recent years an increasing number of people, including me, have fallen prey to a bizarre problem with pine nuts called Pine Mouth Syndrome, a bitter, metallic taste in the mouth that develops a day or two after eating pine nuts. It can last for weeks and make eating or drinking anything very unpleasant. (You can use pecans or almonds, too.)

Step-by-Step Instructions

walnuts and garlic in food processor

To begin, combine the walnuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.

coarsely chopped walnuts and garlic

Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper.

adding basil, salt, and pepper to food processor

Process until finely chopped.

finely chopped basil in food processor

Then, with the food processor running, add the olive oil through the feed tube in a steady stream.

olive oil blended into pesto

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

adding the cheese

Process again until smooth, and that’s your pesto sauce.

blended finished pesto sauce

How To Store & Freeze Pesto

Use the pesto immediately or store it in a tightly sealed jar or air-tight plastic container, covered with a thin layer of olive oil (this seals out the air and prevents the sauce from oxidizing, which would turn it an ugly brown color). It will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.

Pesto can also be frozen in an airtight container for up to 6 months. I suggest dividing it into the compartments of an ice cube tray and freezing. Once frozen, remove the cubes from the tray and put in a sealable plastic bag or airtight container. You can add the defrosted cubes to soups, pasta or zoodle dishes, pizza, eggs, sandwiches, and potatoes.

More Summer Recipes You May Like

The Best Basic Pesto

Homemade pesto sauce is easy to make, and it’s good on just about everything, from pastas to pizzas to salads.

Servings: Makes about 1¼ cups (about 10 servings)
Total Time: 15 Minutes


  • ⅓ cup walnuts
  • 2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


  1. Place the walnuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until coarsely chopped, about 10 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper and process until mixture resembles a paste, about 1 minute. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly blended. Add the Parmesan and process a minute more. Use pesto immediately or store in a tightly sealed jar or air-tight plastic container, covered with a thin layer of olive oil (this seals out the air and prevents the pesto from oxidizing, which would turn it an ugly brown color). It will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.
  2. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: Pesto can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 6 months. You can also divide your prepared pesto into the compartments of an ice cube tray and freeze. Once it’s frozen, remove the pesto cubes from the tray and put in a sealable plastic bag or airtight container. You can add the defrosted pesto cubes to soups, pasta dishes, eggs, sandwiches, and potatoes.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 2 Tbsp.
  • Calories: 159
  • Fat: 17 g
  • Saturated fat: 3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 1 g
  • Sugar: 0 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 3 g
  • Sodium: 161 mg
  • Cholesterol: 4 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

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  • Our family loves many of your recipes, Jenn! Thanks for your awesome site. We have a big garden and use most of our substantual basil harvest to make and freeze this pesto recipe. So gooood! We do, however, cut the salt in half and increase the basil ratio a little for our perfect flavour. Thanks so much!

    • — Madeleine Baisburd on July 11, 2021
    • Reply
  • Best pesto!

    • — Ann Capazzi on July 1, 2021
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  • Had a lot of basil in my garden and decided to make this recipe. It turned out really good, even my family (who are hard to please) enjoyed it. Definitely will be making this again.

    • — Sindu on June 16, 2021
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  • Followed the recipe. The cheese overwhelms the basil. Added another cup of basil and still too cheesy and salty.

    • — Keylargo girl on May 29, 2021
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    • I agree. Soooo salty. Trying to remedy it now, but running out of basil 😫. Adding lemon to see if it helps.

      • — Sofia on July 6, 2021
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    • There is no such thing as too salty 😉

      • — Mark on December 24, 2021
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  • So I have read quite a few reviews and fail to understand why no one has mentioned one major issue with this pesto….HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF OF IT?
    This pesto is beyond good – It is PERFECTION!! Once I make it I do not know how to stop licking the bowl. I have this pesto with my pasta, sandwiches, salads, tacos, eggs and even Indian flat bread. In fact I find new ways to eat this beauty!

    Thanks Jenn for a recipe that more than delivered!!!

    • — Pooja on May 28, 2021
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  • I, too, suffer from the dreaded “Pine Mouth!” It’s terrible! It makes everything I eat or drink (especially wine) taste like soap for days! I made this recipe (with walnuts), using basil from the garden. It’s delicious, and I’m excited to have several small jars in the freezer, to add to pasta for an easy meal.

    • — Helen on May 23, 2021
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  • Amazing pesto …everybody in the family gave it a thumbs up! We love trying different pesto recipes, but we voted to keep this one rotation.

    • — Krista L. Ward on April 27, 2021
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  • I’ve made a lot of pesto but none as good as this. In my opinion it’s the walnuts that make it pop and the ratio of the ingredients is perfect. Well done.

    • — Mike on March 30, 2021
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    • I have always used walnuts instead of pine nuts. I like the flavor more.

      • — Mary on August 14, 2022
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  • Really great recipe. I added an extra garlic clove because I love garlic. For pine nuts that aren’t bitter, they have to be from Italy. I tried the non-Italian ones and had the bitter taste that lasted for a couple days.

  • Freakin’ yum!

  • This really is the best pesto I’ve ever had and so easy to make.

  • Fantastic recipe first time I have made this really simple love how easy you have made to follow as someone who has never measured ingredients using ‘using cup measurements’ brilliant thank you

  • I’ve always considered avocados “green gold” but this pesto is a major contender for that title! We’ve tried it with both walnuts and pine nuts and it’s equally delicious! We normally make this to complement the Heirloom Tomato Salad featured in Jenn’s cookbook, and always save enough to make the Pesto Pasta afterwards. I’ve also used it as a dip and on sandwiches. So yummy!

  • This pesto recipe is truly “The Best Basic Pesto”. I absolutely love it and have made several times. It is also great in grilled cheese sandwiches. I freeze in ice cube trays so it is handy, and freezes well.

  • This truly is my go to pesto. I recommend follow the order of the steps. I was lazy once and just threw everything in the blender. I learned my lesson because the consistency just did not turn out as well.

  • This has become my go-to pesto recipe. I’ve made it as written (lovely) and have also substituted with other greens (spinach, carrot tops, etc.) and nuts (pine nuts most recently), which have also worked well. This pesto is thinner than some other recipes and tastes great.

  • I had never made pesto before because I never had pine nuts, but I always have walnuts. This recipe is so simple and AMAZING! Our basil plant grew like crazy and I’ve made it several times, enjoying it particularly on the individual fresh tomato pesto pizzas. We can’t wait for next years crop! I’ve never liked store bought pesto, so it’s a thrill to find this recipe.
    I don’t have a food processor and my basic blender worked fine, so don’t let that stop you!

  • I used nearly all of my garden basil this year on this pesto. I use it as a pizza topping and with pasta. It’s delicious and much more economical with walnuts than pine nuts.

  • Used 3 cloves of garlic as I like mine with a bit more garlic. Yum!

  • Made this in Scotland! Had taken Basil with me and managed to get another plant. Didn’t have a Magimix or processor but managed with a pestle and mortar. It has become a firm favourite and, have shared it with friends. It keeps in the fridge for a long time. I’m going to freeze half today. Thank you! Now my pasta favourite. Used it in dressing too.

  • Fantastic recipe! I didn’t have much basil on hand and so I halved it (and had to fudge the amount of parmesan, too), and it was still delicious. So quick and easy, thank you!

    • — Christie Chisholm
    • Reply
  • Loved it! Easy to follow directions, small enough units, & turned out excellent.

  • After visiting Liguria, Italy (home of REAL pesto) I have searched to find something I could make at home that tasted the same. BOOM! Here it is. Thank you, Jenn, for this amazing and oh-so-simple recipe. It doesn’t take 5 minutes to make this mouth-watering and healthy addition to pasta, sauces, and my favorite: add it to the mayo on your BLT for a classy step up… yum.

    I usually make enough for one meal and put the left-overs in an ice cube tray and freeze it… I’ve found numerous truly great recipes on your site, and I appreciate you!

  • After years of delaying too long, I was so proud to finally remember to harvest the basil before the cold weather starts. But, I forgot to check the pantry and ended up a bit short on olive oil and Parmesan in the triple batch of pesto with walnuts. No worries! It is delicious with a wonderful texture and consistency. As for the comments about bitterness, sometimes raw garlic can be bitter. I also had two varieties of basil and one was definitely more bitter all summer than the other. That one literally did not make the cut for this recipe. Oh, and I can’t remember the last time we had an ice cube tray, so I used the mini cupcake pan and mini donut pans to freeze the batches. Perfect size!

  • This is a simple but excellent pesto recipe. Thanks for sharing another wonderful recipe Jen!

  • This is the best ever pesto ….. our basil plants were lovely this year and we have made seven batches ….. some for us, some for family. Freezing in the trays is a great tip. Thanks

  • I followed this exactly and it was too salty, too garlicky and too oily for us. Next time, I will put 1/4 tsp salt or even less, half the oil, and only half a garlic clove.

  • Perfect proportions of ingredients. Just like Nonna used to make… really!

  • Just made my first ever batch of pesto to be used in another recipe I’m making for dinner – this turned out amazing! I was looking for a basic pesto recipe that used walnuts, and this one worked wonderfully.

  • Outstanding Recipe! Pesto was so yummy, I could just lick the jar. The fresh basil leaves from my garden found a perfect place! Other than pasta and pizza topping, what else can I use the pesto for?

    • Hi Prajakta, Glad you liked it! Pesto is also nice stirred into or dolloped on top of soup like in this recipe. It’s also great spread onto bread for sandwiches or grilled cheese. You can also freeze pesto for future use if you have more than you can use now.

  • This was sooooo good! Thanks for the recipe!

  • Hi! If I did want to use pine nuts, would it be the same amount? 1/3 cup?

    Thanks! 🙏🏻

    • Yes – hope you enjoy!

  • I just made this and it’s super bitter! I followed it exactly. Now what am I supposed to do, this is tonight’s dinner ? 🙁

    • Hmmm…so sorry, Shelley. Any chance your nuts were bad?

  • My family said it is fabulous 🙂

  • This is the best pesto recipe I’ve ever had, and my Grandfather is from Italy. I only use 1/3 cup + 1 Tbs Cold Pressed EVO and 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano. We love it so much we’ve doubled the number of basil plants in the garden so every 4 days I can pick enough to make a pesto dish. I’ve even made it to give as gifts and shared your recipe. Thank you so much! My entire family loves it.

  • Hi Jenn,
    Just made your pesto. Wow! Substituting pine nuts for walnuts is genius. My family and I enjoyed it with fresh pasta. Delicious! Thank you very much!

  • Yummy!! We loved it. I didn’t need to use all of the olive oil but the result was still great.

  • Two notes:
    If you blanch your basil for 30 seconds in boiling water you do not have to worry about it turning brown.

    Most pine nuts available in the US are from China and they are a different type than those grown in New Mexico or Europe. Those from NM will not have that horrid taste. It is well worth paying more for those grown in the USA.

    • Simone, Thank you for sharing info about the origins of pine nuts! Love the recipes and own the cookbook… First cookbook I bought since internet! I even bought my BFF one!
      Looking forward to the next cookbook…Yummers!

  • Once I found this recipe, there’s never been another acceptable pesto on my plate whether it’s puddled over pasta or spread on some bread.

    One of my wishes is to one day drop a straw into a glass of this pesto and enjoy. Salut!

    • — Catherine Nichols
    • Reply
    • LOL – glad you like it!!

  • I’m thinking this would work as a base for your three-cheese white pizza (which is so delicious!). What do you think?

    • Are you referring to this pizza? If so, definitely!

      • No. Your three cheese white pizza with arugula which I love!

        • Sure, but I’d skip the olive oil and garlic that the dough gets topped with. Hope you enjoy!

  • contains way too much olive oil. I cut the olive oil in 1/2 and it was still extra greasy and very rich. I’ll use an other recipe next time.

    • Can you recommend a good substitute for the pine nuts? (I have a tree nut allergy) and miss good pesto!!

      • Walnuts would be a great substitute. Hope you enjoy!

  • Hi, Jenn! I love your pesto recipe, however, I have a ton of arugula in the fridge right now – could I do a 1:1 swap with the basil to make an arugula pesto? Would I need to add a little sugar or make any other adjustments? Thank you! Bethany

    • Hi Bethany, I haven’t tried it, but I think this would be great with arugula! Because arugula definitely has a sharper flavor, you may want to add a pinch of sugar (but I’d make it as is first, taste it, and then add a pinch if necessary). I’d love to hear how it turns out!

      • I did try it with arugula and it turned out very tasty! I did have to add about 1/4 tsp sugar to counteract the bitterness, and I used pecorino since it was what I had. I added an extra 1/4 tsp salt, as well, since the pecorino is a slightly less salty cheese.

        • Glad it turned out nicely — thanks for reporting back! 🙂

  • This pesto is the best I have ever tasted. I always have alot of basil in my garden but have never tried making pesto. I didn’t have a food processor so this time I used my blender…took a little while to get the basil blended but I was patient and it paid off. I tried to “drizzle” a little olive oil over the top for refrigerator storage…but may have got a little too much. I assume you just stir that in before using. Any suggestions on how to “drizzle” a small amount. I am heading to my garden to pick more basil to make more for my freezer. THANK YOU for sharing.

    • Hi Cheryl, Glad you enjoy the pesto! You might find it easier to pour some onto a spoon, and then drizzle it from the spoon. But I wouldn’t worry about it too much — you really can’t have too much olive oil (and yes, just stir it in). 🙂

  • Delicious! This was the first time I had ever made pesto, I had so much basil in the garden this year I thought I’d give it a try. I used walnuts (and always will after this), it was easy to make and the family loved it. Thanks for a great recipe.

  • Awesome recipe, thanks Jenn!!

    Question: I’ve read that if you’re freezing pesto, you shouldn’t add the cheese, but instead freeze all the ingredients and then add the cheese separately, when you actually use the pesto.

    True? False? Seems like a pain that would make a difference to people with a more sophisticated palate than mine. 😉 Thanks!

    • Hi Jane, I freeze pesto with the cheese. 🙂

  • Amazing! I was always told I had to use pine nuts for pesto and I don’t always have those around but I always have walnuts since my husband likes them. Made exactly as written and it was hard to stop licking the spoon! Will be using it to make your pesto pizza. Thank you.

  • Perfect. Made it for pesto pizza a bit later, exactly as written. Tastes the way pesto should taste.

  • Delicious and easy. I suggest less salt and pepper.

  • This recipe is awesome! I’ve had a bumper crop of basil this season and made it several times. I’ve given it away to friends and family and always received comments of “delicious”, the best” and “please share the recipe”!

  • I make this all the time, great recipe! I like to use it as a base for my pizza, with sliced tomatoes instead of tomato sauce. I freeze this in large quantities too, but instead of freezing in ice cube trays, I just put it in a quart size ziplock bag and lay it flat to freeze. It’s super easy just to break off what you need. I have also subbed raw cashews for the walnuts or pine nuts because that was what I had. I’ve had great luck with my basil plant this year so my freezer is stocked!

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