Basil Pesto

When you have more basil than you know what to do with – make pesto. Heck, this stuff is so good you should hunt down bunches of fresh basil so you can make and freeze classic basil pesto. Or, in spring, when basil is just starting to grow, make nettle pesto with stinging nettle.

basket of basil
Pick your basil before frost gets it!

Pesto pasta, pesto pizza, pesto on eggs, pesto in bread, pesto dip, pesto sandwich spread, pesto salad dressing, pesto veggie topping – what will you use your basil pesto for?

pesto pasta
Frozen pesto pucks are so handy for quick pesto pasta meals.

We used it as a base for our pizza last night. While we love our typical tomato pizza sauce, this basil pesto was a nice change and perfect to go with garden fresh tomatoes.

pesto pizza
Mmm, homemade tomato & pesto pizza with either a little arugula on top.

We also tried the pesto with some spiralized zucchini noodles. A splash of oil and garlic, toss in 1-2 tbsp of pesto, heat for 1 minute, toss in noodles, add fresh chopped tomatoes and a few pine nuts. Heat for 2-3 minutes remove from heat and add bits of goat cheese. Fantastic dinner in about 5 minutes!

pesto zucchini noodles
Chicken pesto zucchini noodles.

This recipe is made with classic pesto ingredients – garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, oil and salt. My pantry staple is canola oil, so that’s what I used. And when I can’t find or afford pine nuts I have no problem using walnuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds. We even used hazelnuts one time.

classic pesto
When you can’t find pine nuts, use walnuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds. 

Basil exposed to air will oxidize (turn dark). It’s not a problem at all, it’s perfectly safe to eat. If you really want to preserve the bright green colour, briefly blanch basil first (dip in boiling hot water). I’m okay with the dark color, the inside of the cube stays bright green and once on the pizza or pasta, it’s really a non-issue for my family or me.

basil pesto in freezer trays - watermarked
Freezing in ice cube tray makes convenient pesto pucks.

Recipe for Basil Pesto

Print Recipe
5 from 4 votes

Classic Basil Pesto

Prep : 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 2 cups


  • 5 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts or sunflower seeds
  • 5 cloves fresh garlic mine were huge!
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup Canola oil


  • Wash and gently dry basil leaves. Set aside.
  • In food processor, coarsely chop pine nuts and garlic.
  • Add basil leaves, Parmesan cheese and salt and process until well blended.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning as desired – Do you prefer more salt, garlic or cheese?
  • With processor running pour oil into basil mix to create a paste.
  • Fill ice cube tray and freeze.
  • Once frozen, transfer cubes into a freezer bag and seal well.
  • Keep for 3 to 6 months in freezer.


Pine nuts are expensive and can be hard to find – try walnuts, sunflower seeds, pepita or even hazelnuts instead.
Use purple rubin basil for a unique purple pesto.
Makes 2 cups
Tried this recipe?Mention @GetGettyS or tag #GetGettyS

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

Calories: 2071kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 41g | Fat: 206g | Sodium: 2576mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 4g | Iron: 10mg
Course: preserves, salad dressing
Cuisine: European
Keyword: Basil sauce, pesto, Quick pasta sauce

There’s nothing difficult about this recipe, but it does take some time to pick, wash and dry the basil. Lucky for me, my friend Randi came to help! She’s an excellent basil washer.

basil in salad spinner - watermarked

Process ingredients in food processor.

pesto in food processor
Check and scrape down sides. Continue to process until smooth.

Taste and adjust seasoning, then drizzle in oil and process until desired smoothness.

finished pesto
Process until as smooth as you desire.

More Ways to Enjoy Basil

Panzanella Salad – Tomato, Bread & Basil Salad


Strawberry Basil Salad

Basil and Bean Salad

How to Store Fresh Basil

6 Ways to Preserve Basil

How to Air Dry Basil

How to Dry Basil in the Microwave

How to Dry Basil in a Dehydrator

Want to learn more? How about a preserving workshop with Getty? Getty Stewart is an engaging speaker and writer providing tasty recipes, time-saving tips, and helpful kitchen ideas to make home cooking easy and enjoyable. She is a Professional Home Economist, author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, mom and veggie gardener.

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