Homemade Pesto Article - Allrecipes.com
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Homemade Pesto

Fragrant and flavorful, pesto is pasta's perfect partner.

Basil's the traditional herb in pesto, but variations can be made with herbs like cilantro or mint.

Pasta Loves Pesto

Pesto is an aromatic herb paste, traditionally made from fresh basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and olive oil. It is most commonly used as a pasta sauce.

  • Since pesto has a very concentrated flavor, make a pasta sauce by reserving a cupful of the pasta cooking water when you drain the pasta.
  • Return the drained pasta to the hot pan, add a tablespoonful or so of pesto, and add the water a little bit at a time until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.
  • The starch in the water will help to thicken the sauce and allow it to coat the penne or linguine (or whatever shape you choose).
  • Serve the pasta as is, or top it with chopped fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, and toasted pine nuts.
  • You can also make it more filling by adding sautéed vegetables and leftover cooked chicken or ham.

Pesto Pointers

Fresh basil is very delicate, and will turn brown if it gets very hot or if it's exposed to air for long periods of time. Many cooks use fresh spinach as well as basil in their pesto to help maintain its brilliant green color.

  • When mixing pesto with pasta, potatoes, or risotto, stir it in at the last minute, just before serving.
  • Store pesto in a jar or airtight container in the refrigerator for about a week, or in the freezer for about six months.
  • Keep it looking fresh and green by covering the top with a thin layer of olive oil or with a sheet of plastic wrap directly on its surface; this will keep it from oxidizing and turning brown. (If your pesto darkens in color, it will still taste good. Only discard it if it has been stored improperly.)

One way to freeze pesto in manageable portion sizes is to freeze it in an ice cube tray, and transfer the cubes to a heavy duty plastic freezer bag. (Reserve an ice cube tray for this purpose, as it might discolor and flavor your plastic tray.) Thaw frozen pesto in the refrigerator or in the microwave on medium power just until room temperature.

Serving Suggestions for Pesto

Although pesto is easy to make at home and will taste fresher than the purchased kind, you can also find it at the grocery store in shelf-stable jars, in the refrigerator case, or in the freezer section.
Try pesto:

  • On pizza in place of or in addition to the red sauce
  • Added to a cream sauce or Alfredo sauce
  • Mixed with mayonnaise as a sandwich spread or burger topping
  • Stirred into mashed potatoes
  • Stirred into risotto
  • Dolloped on soup
  • Spread on crostini and topped with chopped tomatoes, smoked salmon, roasted red peppers or goat cheese
  • Whisked into scrambled eggs or folded into omelets
    In pasta salads, potato salads, or salad dressings
  • Mixed with cream cheese and spread on a bagel

Aug. 10, 2009 12:55 pm
I make my pesto with my homegrown basil, olive oil, parmesan cheese and I use those salad almonds(that you can get in the produce section of your favorite grocery store), they have different flavors. I use the one with parmesan cheese.You can even use walnuts or pecans in place of the pine nuts. Everyone tells me I could sell it.
Aug. 10, 2009 12:57 pm
I also use fresh garlic. I just put everything in my food processor.
Jessie Raye 
Aug. 11, 2009 3:07 pm
does all pesto have pine or Brazil nuts n it? my husband doesn't like nuts and i have a friend that is allergic to tree nuts.
Aug. 12, 2009 6:12 am
I'm so hungry for pesto!
Aug. 12, 2009 6:13 am
It freezes well too. Make pesto with a friend and store it in the freezer until ready to use.
Aug. 12, 2009 3:50 pm
I love pesto. I make a sauce with farmer's market organic basil, pinenuts, olive oil, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. It's so simple and delicious.
Aug. 14, 2009 9:58 pm
Hmm, looked so tasty :)
Sep. 5, 2009 10:05 am
Now after reading all the good advice I am going out side to harvest my basil (first time I have grown it) and making my first batch of pesto. Wish me luck!
Sep. 6, 2009 7:10 am
me too can't wait to try my own pesto sauce today looks easy..........yummy
Sep. 30, 2009 12:03 pm
For Jessie Ray - I don't believe that Pine Nuts are the same as Walnuts and such. Both my husband and older son are allergic to all other tree nuts and can both eat Pine Nuts, but check with your dr. to be sure. Always read the ingredients if you buy pesto, as we learned the hard way when my husband bought a jar of "Traditional Pesto" from Trader Joe's (thought we would cheat while at our time share) and it had Cashews instead of pine nuts and almost killed my son (my husband just spent a lot of time in the bathroom). My husband is Italian, so traditional to him is basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, olive oil and pine nuts. Always ask at a restaurant too, just to be safe.
Sep. 30, 2009 12:05 pm
If you mix pesto with equal amounts of butter and cream cheese it makes an excellent spread for bread or crackers.
Oct. 22, 2009 10:21 am
I freeze my pesto in dollops (from a small ice cream scoop) laid out on waxed paper atop a cookie sheet. After freezing I put these in a lidded container or ziploc bag and return to the freezer. It is easier than using an ice cube tray. I include the walnuts in the mixture I freeze, but leave out the Parmesan cheese because it can be added at serving time without reprocessing the pesto.
Tedrow Leeves 
Nov. 11, 2009 6:33 am
Guess what? I made jack o lanterns for Halloween! I saved the seeds, shelled them, and toasted them over medium heat in a saute pan, thinking that they'd make a crunchy snack. But then I thought: toasted pumpkin seeds - hey! Pesto! So I substituted the pumpkin seeds for the pine nuts, used my mortar & pestle to combine all the ingredients - and ended up with the most delightful pumpkin pesto!
Jan. 20, 2010 12:20 pm
we have allergies in this house also so I've always made it and left out the pine nuts or any nuts for that matter. Easier to just leave them out instead of taking a chance with one of the kids.
Mar. 12, 2010 10:58 am
what can i mix pesto with to make a pasta sauce?
Mar. 21, 2010 10:17 am
If you dunk the fresh basil into boiling water for 15 seconds and then plunge the basil in iced water to stop the cooking process, then it locks the coloue and flavour in and is no longer delicate to handle. Then you can make a classic pesto by whizzing it (after squeezing out as much water as poss) with the oil, nuts, cheese and garlic. Check out .... http://allrecipes.com/PersonalRecipe/62275527/Pesto/Detail.aspx
May 11, 2010 4:17 pm
Blanching the basil is a good idea and I will try it. I lived in Genova for four years. They use goat cheese in their pesto along with pine nuts,garlic and olive oil. Using half pecorino and half aged parmigiano reggiano works just as well. The Genovesi serve the pasta with small potatoes and sometimes string beans, dressed with pesto and a little grated parmigiano.
Jun. 16, 2010 6:10 pm
Fresh EVOO makes such a difference in pestos. I highly recommend trying naturally flavored garlic or basil EVOO in your next pesto batch. www.theoliveorchard.com
Jul. 23, 2010 1:52 pm
I love this page and wish that I could save it all. I used to have a page that I could save it to. Has that gone?
Jul. 23, 2010 10:42 pm
Ajijic, You can save this whole page in your recipe box. Copy this page (go to the url at the top- the http://...etc). Left click to highlight it, right click (shows drop down menu), then left click on 'copy'. The url is now stored internally. Then, move over to your own recipe box, and open it. When you've done that, you'll see the orange (at least in mine) bar running across the page -'my recipe list- personal list- weblink- reference', etc. Left click on 'weblink'. A new page will open. In there, there's a space that already has a sample url shown. Left click on it- it'll go blank. Now, holding the cursor over this same now empty box, RIGHT click. Drop down menu will appear. Find 'copy' in the list, and left click. The url for this page (all of the basil stuff)will now show up in this box. Click on 'continue'. New page shows up for you to put in anything personal that you want to add. Make sure that you put something in the 'weblink title' box- I just called mine 'basil'. Go furth
Aug. 1, 2010 5:31 pm
I loved this recipe and so did my kids! Make sure you do salt and pepper to taste to get rid of that grassy taste! Definitely use EVOO in this! This one is a keeper.
Aug. 12, 2010 4:12 am
What is EVOO? Where do you find it? What is is used for other than in pesto?
Sep. 9, 2010 8:17 pm
Freeze pesto in ice cube trays. When frozen,pop out and put in freeze bag. So easy to just grab a "cube" when needed.
Dec. 28, 2010 6:27 pm
okay so pine nuts are very $$$$$$ even at Costco! What's the best substitute?
May 27, 2011 4:22 am
I keep basil year round going in pots and make basil pesto but I leave the nuts out. Instead I put pasta cheese in. I use basil,cheese,salt,oil and put it in the blender and add the oil till it all blends easy enough to be able to pour it out. When you puut it in a 1/2 pint jar and let it set a while the excess oil comes to the top and I remove it ten freeze the pesto.
Santoku Runner 
Jul. 17, 2011 1:00 pm
Ref: Balabusta Pesto is very versatile. Pecans work just fine. They lend their brown color to the finished sauce however, but the flavor is great. Don't put so many.
Jul. 27, 2011 12:55 pm
balausta - I've heard cashews are a good substitute. That's how I'm going to make it tonight. Someone previously mentioned almonds or even leaving out the nuts. Good luck!!
Aug. 19, 2011 8:33 am
I make an excellent pesto with a mix of basil, parsely, small amounts of other fresh herbs...but to replace the pine nuts, I used half walnuts and half shelled pistachios!! It is SO good. I spread it on sandwiches, eat it with fresh sauteed zucchini and pasta, OR eat if right off the spoon! :)
Aug. 28, 2011 12:18 pm
I just made this recipe, then combined 1/2 stick butter, 4 oz. cream cheese (as suggested above)with about 1/3 c. of the pesto. I spread it on thinly sliced garlic ciabatta that I had toasted in the oven with my fresh cayenne pepper-infused EVOO brushed on it. Oh my gosh... absolutely delish!
Sep. 8, 2011 2:57 pm
Just before I add the EVOO I gentle heat the Pesto. I add EVOO slowly. The aroma will permiate the Kitchen and Diningroom. You and your guests will think your in the finest Italian Restaurant. The warm Pesto is folded into a platter of bow tis. he aroma will enhance the flavor. Your guests will beg for more.
Sep. 10, 2011 8:30 am
Sunflower kernels work well in homemade pesto sauce. I prefer those to pine nuts. My daughter-in-law also has made pesto using walnuts.
Nov. 5, 2011 7:11 pm
why did my pesto lose that great green color?
Jan. 11, 2012 10:57 pm
I'm all about the sunflower kernels, walnuts et.al. - Pine Nuts? Yuk.
May 18, 2012 11:44 am
What is EVOO?
Jun. 28, 2012 11:27 pm
First time growing basil and I am so excited to try all recipes mentioned above! My kids and I pick it daily and pop cherry tomatoes with pieces of fresh basil in our mouths .... Yum! Nothing else needed.
Aug. 3, 2012 1:41 pm
I've used green garlic and pistachios in pesto also, with wonderful results. Today, for the first time, I'm adding a teaspoon of lemon juice, along with a small handful of baby spinach (and closely covering it with plastic wrap), to see if it will stay bright green.
Aug. 17, 2012 9:00 am
My husband and I make Pesto out of basil, oregano, marjoram or thyme or all four together, adding parsley. olive oil and garlic. We put the pesto in 4 oz. canning jars w/ the lids. Easier than ice cubes and stack in our freezer well. We add toasted pine nuts or walnuts and Parmesan cheese to the pasta and pesto w/ sun dried tomatoes and veggies when we serve the meal.
Aug. 18, 2012 8:01 am
I'm searching to see if anyone 'cans' pesto sauce? I don't have freezer space and would like to make in jars. Any suggestions?
Pat RN 
Aug. 30, 2012 9:01 am
I too am looking for canning instructions so I can give this for party favors.
Nov. 5, 2012 4:51 pm
I'm looking for pesto recipes that do not use basil. Someone in town makes mushroom pesto, cilantro/lime pesto, asparagus pesto, and more. Anyone have these kinds of recipes?
Aug. 27, 2013 6:14 pm
Just saved this entire article as a web link in my recipe box. Thank you, John, for the "how to"!
Jul. 30, 2014 1:53 pm
Aug. 9, 2014 10:27 am
EVOO stands for extra virgin olive oil
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