How To Make The Perfect Pesto

4 people
15 min

This basil pesto is beautifully soft, creamy, and has the perfect bite. It's a great topping for grilled chicken, fish, steak, or mixed in pasta salads.

The first time I tried pesto it wasn't great, I'll be honest. I know now that I'm allergic to pine nuts, which is a basic ingredient in pesto, so when I got all itchy I put it aside and didn't try it again until years later. I just thought it wasn't for me and I'll take the marinara sauce, please. It wasn't until recently when I saw a cooking show where they made pesto by hand with an actual mortar and pestle that I thought, "You know what, that looks delicious. No reason I can't try it again!" And oh man, I'm so glad I did.


This time I made it myself and tried different variations until I came up with some great options. I'm so excited to share these with you and turn those marinara lovers into pesto lovers! If you're already a pesto aficionado, you'll find some fun changes to what you might already be used to.

How to make pesto

This is one of the easiest things to make, seriously. I'll go through it with you.


  1. Gather your ingredients
  2. Blend them up
  3. Eat!

It's literally that simple. There's no reason why you can't make this today.


Ingredients

This is where it gets fun. There are so many different variations, at some point, they start turning into other sauces all together. Here are some of my favorite combinations. This makes about 1 cup. * Remember to loosely pack the leaves.


  • 4 cups basil, 2 cups parsley, ½ cup parmesan, 3 garlic cloves, ½ toasted walnuts, ½ cup olive oil, ½ teaspoon kosher salt * This one is a bit more temperate with the addition of the parsley and it happens to be my favorite
  • 6 cups basil, ½ cup parmesan, 3 garlic cloves, ½ cup toasted pine nuts, ½ olive oil, ½ teaspoon kosher salt * This is a classic version that you'll find most commonly
  • 6 cup parsley, 1 roasted red pepper, ½ parmesan, 3 garlic cloves, ½ toasted walnuts, ½ roasted jalapeno, ½ cup olive oil, ½ teaspoon kosher salt * This is my favorite spiced up version!
Even more pesto variations
Greens
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Mint
  • Cilantro
  • Kale
  • Spinach

Nuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Pepitas
  • Pecans

Oil
  • Olive
  • Canola
  • Vegetable
  • Coconut
  • Avocado

Yummy Additions
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Roasted red peppers
  • Roasted jalapeno
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Avocado
  • Summer squash (zucchini, yellow squash)
Tools

There are a few different options for blending these ingredients all together. Here are my notes for each.


Immersion blender: This needs to be done in a taller cup or bowl so the blade can reach everything and mix it all together


Food processor: Start by doing a couple of pulses with everything but the oil, then add it slowly through the hole in the top while continuing to pulse. This will create a smooth sauce.


Blender: A good old fashioned blender will work here, but make sure to pulse the greens until roughly blended before adding anything else. The greens tend to get stuck at the bottom if you don't do this first.


Mortar and pestle: This may take slightly longer, but man is it worth it. The sharp scent of the basil and garlic being crushed together and then smoothed out with the oil is amazing, and honestly, pretty cathartic.

How to store pesto

Refrigerate: Put your pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. I recommend letting it come to room temperature before adding it to your meal.


Freeze: Pesto freezes beautifully. I hate wasting good food, so I like to freeze everything I can. Pesto is perfect for this. I make a large batch, put it in the freezer, take out a big scoop, and let it come to room temperature whenever I need some. Voilá


Pesto recipes

One of my family's favorite meals is grilled chicken, rice, and a veggie. My kids will barely eat anything else right now. Except pizza. I recently convinced my 4-year old that pesto is his new favorite sauce because I was tired of eating the same meal all the time. (I'm honestly not sure how I did this, but I expect he'll hate it again in a few months.) Now, though, I can put pesto on our chicken, steak, in pasta, and their favorite - pizza!


There really isn't a limit on the variations you can create and the food you can top it with. Your imagination is the limit!

If you try it out, let me know how it goes in the comments or on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest.

How To Make The Perfect Pesto

Recipe details

  • 4  people
  • Prep time: 5 Minutes Cook time: 10 Minutes Total time: 15 min
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Ingredients


  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil
  • 4 cups loosely packed fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Instructions


Toast the walnuts, peel the garlic, prepare the salt and oil, and grate the cheese.
Combine the greens, nuts, garlic, cheese, salt, and blend. Drizzle in the oil slowly while mixing.
Top your dish with deliciousness!

Tips

  • **Variations**
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Mint
  • Cilantro
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Pine nuts
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Pepitas
  • Pecans
  • Olive
  • Canola
  • Vegetable
  • Coconut
  • Avocado
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Roasted red peppers
  • Roasted jalapeno
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Avocado
  • Summer squash (zucchini, yellow squash)

Lindsey
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Comments

  • Debbie Ella Debbie Ella on Sep 18, 2021

    You can add swiss chard and carrot greens to the Parsley substitutes, too! While chard is mild, carrot greens have a more assertive flavor than parsley. I used what I had and it was delicious!

  • Colleen Goodwin Vogel Colleen Goodwin Vogel on Sep 23, 2021

    I jumped and printed off the recipe without looking at the story. It was then I realized there wasn't any garlic amount but called for peeling it in the instructions. I went back to the site and started looking at the story and the basil and parsley amounts are reversed in the ingredients in the recipe section. Wanted you to know!

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