Homemade pesto sauce brings you the best of summer. Use this easy-to-make condiment for pasta, salads, pizza, and more.
Is it even summer if you haven’t made pesto yet?
Every spring I plant basil in my herb garden. It’s hard to wait until I have enough to make pesto; those fragrant leaves are just too tempting to not be adding them to summer salads.
Sure, not everyone has a basil plant in their yard, but still — homemade pesto sauce is one of those summer requirements, like fresh tomatoes and juicy peaches. Both of which taste terrific with pesto. Nature knows what it is doing with the produce season cycles, folks.
Homemade pesto sauce is one of those foods that always feels fancy to me, and yet in truth it is ready in a matter of minutes. The step that takes the longest is grating the cheese. Or maybe scraping the sauce out of your food processor.
A mini food processor works wonderfully for making pesto, but a larger-capacity is just fine as well. If you’re really into doing some extra work, a mortar and pestle will create a silky pesto.
Traditional pesto calls for pine nuts, but when I make homemade pesto sauce, I use whatever nuts I have on hand. Usually this means walnuts, though I have also used almonds as in my recipe for carrot top pesto. You can substitute virtually any nut for pine nuts in pesto and it always turns out beautifully.
For the cheese, you can use parmesan, asiago, pecorino, or Grana Padano. Using other cheeses veers from the classic recipe, but again, I prefer to use the ingredients already available to me, so I encourage you to do the same. Just stick to a hard, grate-able Italian cheese — no cheddar substitutions please!
I use the pesto immediately, on eggs, pasta, and cucumber tomato salad. You can store any extra in a jar in the refrigerator, with a bit of extra olive oil on top to help prevent drying and browning.
Toward the end of the summer I also freeze it into ice cube trays, again with a bit of oil on top. Once frozen pop out the cubes and store them in freezer bags. You’ll have perfectly portioned sauce to enjoy through the winter!
A note on garlic
Garlic is one of those ingredients that varies quite a bit in size, and yet is silly to measure after chopping. Use your gut when it comes to determining how much garlic to use. The cloves we get tend to be a bit smaller, so I use extra. If you’re a garlic lover, do the same! Or if you prefer, you can use less. Don’t be afraid to adjust to your liking.
How long do you mix homemade pesto sauce?
Whether you want chunkier pesto or a smooth sauce, the decision is up to you. I like mine a little more coarse, while others want a more uniform end result. Keep in mind what you plan to use the pesto for. Chunky works well for spreading onto bread or pizza, while smooth is excellent with pasta.
I encourage you to go with your gut!
Homemade Pesto Sauce
- 2 cups fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Pinch salt
In the bowl of a food processor, combine basil, walnuts, and garlic. Cover and pulse until uniformly chopped.
With the processor running, slowly pour in olive oil through the feeder opening until smooth.
Stir in cheese and salt. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
Use immediately, or store in a covered jar in the refrigerator with extra olive oil on top.
Makes about 1 cup.
Nutrition facts per serving