Bursting with freshness and packed full of flavour, homemade pesto is really easy to make. Perfect for stirring through pasta and so much more.
The flavour is much better than ready made pesto and you would be a fool not to give it a try in the summer when fresh basil is in abundance and at its best.
Why this recipe is so good
Quite simply this just comes down to flavour which is so much brighter and tastier than ready made pesto.
Homemade pesto is a doddle to make especially if you have a small food processor. You can also use one of the hand held stick blenders which works reasonable well for this, or even make it in a pestle and mortar by pounding the ingredients together until blended. Though frankly that's just too much effort for me. So I make mine in the food processor.
Grow Your Own Basil
It can also be cheaper than ready made pesto too especially if you grow your own basil.
Although I live in the relatively cool climate of the UK, it is still possible to grow fresh basil in the summer. It can be grown from seed but I find it easiest to start with a pot of basil.
As soon as the danger of frosts have passed I buy a large pot and after leaving it outside in a sheltered spot for a day or two, I split it and plant it in the soil. Here it will grow away happily until the colder days return.
It is so much cheaper than buying it fresh and it seems to develop a stronger flavour too.
If you are lucky, one or two pots will last you all summer. Even if you do not have a garden it is possible to grow it in a pot on a sunny windowsill but not in the same pot it comes in from the supermarkets. Pot into fresh compost. If you are lucky you might even be able to grow it on your windowsill through the winter too.
How to Make Homemade Pesto
Grate the Parmesan finely.
Wash the basil leaves in cold water. After washing , shake them dry. I find this easiest to do by placing them in a tea towel, gathering it up to enclose, then shaking them.
Make sure you dry it well, if the leaves are too wet they may make your pesto a little lacking in flavour.
Place the washed basil leaves In a food processor.
Add the grated cheese and toasted pinenuts.
Blitz to finely chop the basil leaves. Do this in short bursts so that you do not over - process. The mixture should still have some texture. Then add the oil and blitz again to combine.
If you are going to the trouble of making your own pesto it is worth splashing out a little bit on a good quality oil. The oil you use for your salad dressing rather than cooking.
Top Tip: Which oil is best?
Extra virgin olive oil is the traditonal oil used to make pesto but I also use cold pressed rapeseed oil, sometimes called extra virgin rapeseed oil. Unlike the rapeseed oil used in many generic vegetable oils, cold pressed produces an oil that is more flavoursome, less refined than other oils and and has similar nutritional value to extra virgin olive oil.
Living in the UK for me it has the added bonus of reducing food miles. I use Hill Farm Oil as it is produced close to my cottage in Suffolk
Season to taste with salt.
How long will it keep?
Basil pesto should keep for about 4 to 5 days in a sealed jar in the refrigerator. If the jar is not full pour a thin layer of olive oil over the surface to help it stay fresh.
You can freeze pesto, however it will alter the texture slightly and make it slightly soggier. It is best frozen for no longer than a month after which the flavour will diminish.
Freeze in ice cube trays once frozen and transfer to a sealed bag. You can defrost as little or as much as you need.
What do I serve it with?
There are lots of ways to enjoy this classic basil pesto. The most obvious one is being tossed through pasta for a quick and simple family dinner. It is also delicious stirred through cold rice for a simple rice salad.
Pesto is also fantastic with vegetables, Try cooked beans or potatoes tossed in a little pesto or add some to your salad dressing. Drizzle over some fresh ripe tomatoes. Delicious!
Is basil the only thing you can make pesto with?
No you can make pesto with other ingredients too. Rocket, wild garlic, watercress and coriander all make great pestos.
My Carrot Top Pesto is a great way of using up the leaves from bunched carrots that would otherwise go to waste. It really does make a delicious alternative to a classic basil pesto.
Other pesto recipes you may like to try
- Rose petal and tomato pesto - Recipes from a pantry
- Sun-dried tomato pesto - Sneaky Veg
- Easy Kale Pesto - The Family Food Kitchen
- Parsley Pesto - Nutritious Deliciousness
- Wild Garlic Pesto –Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy
You can also replace the pine nuts with other nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, and walnuts work well.
Is Pesto Vegetarian?
Parmesan cheese used in this recipe is not suitable for vegetarians as it contains animal rennet. If you want to make it vegetarian look out for vegetarian alternative in your local supermarket.
Easy Homemade pesto
- 50 g pine nuts
- 30 g Parmesan cheese
- 75 g basil leaves
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 125 ml extra virgin olive oil or cold pressed rapeseed oil
- salt to taste
- Toast 50g pine nuts in a dry frying pan until pale golden, shaking the pan frequently so that they do not burn. As soon as they are pale golden tip onto a plate and allow to cool.
- Finely grate 30g Parmesan cheese. Wash 75g basil leaves and shake dry.
- Place the basil in the food processor and add the pine nuts and grated Parmesan. Blitz in short bursts until finely chopped.
- Add the oil and blitz again briefly to blend. Season to taste with a little salt.
- That's it, the pesto is now ready to use, or alternatively transfer to a sterilized jar, level the top and pour over a little extra oil to cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days
- Make sure you dry the basil leaves well.
- Blitz in short burst so that the pesto retains some texture.
- For the best flavour choose a good quality oil.
- You can use this basic recipe to make other flavoured pestos, such as rocket, watercress or coriander pesto, although this classic basil pesto remains my firm favourite.