Of course you can buy ready-made pesto – I often do if I’m short on time. But nothing can compare to homemade fresh basil pesto. You can make it as garlicky, cheesy or salty as you like. You can also add in extras or make some great swaps (check out the recipe card at the end of the post for some ideas).

Pesto topped with pine nuts and basil in a small white bowl, surrounded by ingredients.

A super simple recipe, but one that packs a real flavour punch!
Pesto is the base for so many great recipes. My go-to sauce to throw together a quick pasta dinner, add to baked chicken, or spread on crusty grilled bread before topping with juicy chopped tomatoes for a great version of bruschetta.

📋 What do we need?

Ingredients for homemade pesto on a light grey surface
  • Fresh basil – and plenty of it
  • Olive oil – try to go for a good quality extra-virgin olive oil if you can
  • Garlic – a must for that fragrant garlicky flavour
  • Parmesan (or vegetarian Italian-style hard cheese if you want a vegetarian version)
  • Pine nuts – for that creamy nuttiness
  • Salt and Pepper

🔪 How to make it

Full recipe with detailed steps in the recipe card at the end of this post.

Overhead shot of homemade pesto in a small food processor, on a light background.
  1. Pulse basil, garlic, pine nuts, grated parmesan and black pepper and salt together for a few seconds in a small food processor (or mini chopper or even a blender). This helps to initially break up the garlic and pine nuts.
  2. Then, with the motor running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream. If you’re using a blender (I sometimes use my Nutribullet), simply add in half the oil, blend, give it a good shake, then add the rest of the oil and blend again.
  3. Give it a taste, then add in more salt (crushed Maldon is lovely, but table salt is also fine).
  4. It’s ready to serve!

👩‍🍳PRO TIP Just add a little (Maldon) salt before blending, then taste after blending and add more salt then. This ensures you get the seasoning just right. Also, adding the Maldon salt after blending means you get that lovely salty crunch.

Overhead image of basil pesto in a small white bowl on a light grey background. There is a blue napkin, some pine nuts and basil around the dish.

🍽️ What to serve it with



🍲 More fantastic homemade sauces

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5 from 2 votes

Simple Pesto Recipe

Nothing can compare to homemade fresh basil pesto. You can make it as garlicky, cheesy or salty as you like. A brilliant, versatile ingredient to add to lots of recipes – or just stir through pasta!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 8 tablespoons
Course: Sauces
Cuisine: Italian

Ingredients

  • 50 g large bunch (50g/1.75oz) fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled
  • 40 g (3 tbsp) pine nuts
  • 30 g (1/3 cup) freshly grated Parmesan
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp Maldon salt
  • 90 ml (1/3 cup) olive oil

To Serve:

  • ½ tsp crushed Maldon Salt

Instructions 

  • Add the basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, black pepper, and salt to a food processor and pulse for about 10 seconds to break up the garlic and pine nuts.
    50 g large bunch (50g/1.75oz) fresh basil leaves, 2 cloves garlic, 40 g (3 tbsp) pine nuts, 30 g (1/3 cup) freshly grated Parmesan, ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper, ¼ tsp Maldon salt
  • Turn the food processor back on and pour in the oil in a steady stream – which should take about 10 seconds.
    90 ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
  • Check for consistency – if you like it a little chunky, it’s ready to go. If you like it smoother, whizz for another 10-20 seconds until the texture is to your liking.
  • Taste the pesto and add in more salt if needed. I usually add in approx. ½ tsp lightly crushed Maldon salt.
    1/2 tsp crushed Maldon Salt

Notes

Storage
Store the pesto in sealed jar, for up to a week, in the fridge. It may lose a little of the vibrant colour during this time, but will still taste great.
If you are storing in the refrigerator for more than a day, I like to add in a tablespoon of lemon juice to help maintain the vibrant colour.
Alternatively, you can freeze the pesto in portions (I use an ice cube tray) – then defrost in the fridge or add the frozen pesto cubes directly to the dish you’re making – it should defrost pretty quickly with heat.
Ingredient swaps
  • Swap the pine nuts for walnuts, almonds or cashews
  • Swap the Parmesan for Italian-style hard-cheese for a vegetarian version. You can also swap it for cheddar for a lightly different flavour
  • Add in extra herbs or leaves – such as chives, parsley, coriander (cilantro), kale, rocket or watercress.
  • Add in a green chilli before blending, or stir in 1/4 tsp chilli flakes after blending for a kick of heat.
Nutritional information is approximate, per TABLESPOON of the pesto.

Nutrition

Calories: 152kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 139mg | Potassium: 59mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 364IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 47mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links – which means if you buy the product I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you). If you do buy, then thank you! That’s what helps us to keep Kitchen Sanctuary running. The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary depending on several factors. For more information please see our Terms & Conditions.

Welcome to Kitchen Sanctuary

Hi, I'm Nicky and I love to cook! I want to share with you my favourite, delicious family friendly recipes. I want to inspire you to create fantastic food for your family every day.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Wow! This recipe is alchemy! My husband and I ate the lot, so we never even got to the storing it in a jar stage. How can a handful of simple ingredients be so delicious! I am definitely doing this again and the whole prep for supper took just minutes.

  2. 5 stars
    I’ve made a larger batch to keep in the freezer, it’s THAT GOOD!!
    Also, a quick comment on how you add the ingredients with the amounts in the instructions. Saves me a lot of time from going back and forth to make sure I have the right amounts. It is very helpful.
    Learning from you has always been a joy.