Classic Pesto Recipe and How to Store Pesto

 

It’s our classic pesto recipe and how to store pesto and more questions are answered right here! Plus recipes that use pesto and how to keep it green.

 

 

Mason jar with basil pesto on a wooden table.

 

I don’t know why, but I had never had pesto until college. At least I’m pretty sure I didn’t. And I honestly don’t even remember who made it when I did finally have it. All I remember was that it was a basic pesto pasta and I loved it.

 

Classic Pesto Recipe

I’ll be the first to admit that I ate waaaaaay more than I should have. It was slightly nutty, cheesy, and super fresh. Could there be a better combo? We use pesto all the time now and we even make it a few different ways depending on how much of everything we have like our 15 Pesto Pasta, pesto butter grilled cheese, creamy pesto chicken pizza,  or the bacon pesto grilled cheese sandwich contest I won with Tillamook. however in the end this is our ultimate, absolute favorite for a classic pesto recipe.

 

Classic Pesto in jar on a wooden table.

 

 

A classic pesto recipe is easy enough to make, but storing is a bit tricky. I have two ways that I store it and a third that I’ve heard great things about but never tried it, The Ice Cube Method. But we can talk about storing it after we discuss the actual classic pesto recipe.

 

Wooden cutting board with pine nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic, basil, olive oil and a pinch of salt.

 

 

The ingredients are simple, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic, basil, olive oil and a pinch of salt. I personally am a huge fan of toasting the pine nuts and garlic.

 

Pine nuts and garlic in a pan.

 

To start this simple classic pesto recipe I just heat up a pan to medium heat, add both and let it cook until golden, shaking the pan occasionally. Then I remove the nuts and allow the garlic to finish turning golden as well. An added bonus is that the garlic slides right out of it’s skin. I love that. So, yes you read right, toast the garlic in it’s thin skin and then remove it after it’s golden.

 

 

Place everything except the cheese and salt in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. Stir in the cheese and add salt to taste. Yes, making this classic pesto recipe is that easy.

 

Classic Pesto in a glass jar on a wooden table.

 

Storing Pesto

1.In a Jar in the Fridge/Freezer-We love pesto on everything from egg whites to garlic bread and chicken to pasta so I love having a jar handy in the fridge. During the winter it brightens up a meal to have something fresh.

 

Make your classic pesto and then fill a jar to to almost the very top. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top and seal closed to keep pesto green. This can keep for a few weeks in the fridge if you continue to cover the top with olive to keep the herbs fresh. You can also choose to freeze the jar, but I wouldn’t keep it in the freezer for more than a month before switching it to the fridge.

 

2. Vacuum Bag- As I’ve already mentioned in my post about how to to freeze corn, I love the foodsaver. Yes, it costs a little money, but you end up saving tons. You can easily make your pesto, stick it in a bag, suck out the air and freeze it for up to 9 months. BOOYAH! When you’re ready to use it just move it down to the fridge to defrost and use on your favorite dish.

 

3. Ice Tray Method- This is the method I haven’t tried, but you can click the link to learn more. 

 

Classic Pesto Recipe – Bonus Tips

Love these extra tips from a sweet reader from Italy, and her English is great so thank you my dear!!!

“Two Italian tips:
1) put ice in the food processor and mix, to cool your machine, before preparing your pesto. This will help in keeping your pesto more green.
2) If freezing, do not freeze with Parmigiano cheese inside. It’s taste will change. Add it right before using your pesto, after de-frosting.

Other Italian Sauce Recipes

Looking for more Italian Sauce recipes? Who doesn’t love Italian sauces!?  Make sure you try these out the next time you are making that Italian dish: 

Here are a few more yummy saucy pasta dishes that our family loves: 

 

Classic Pesto Recipe and How to Store Pesto

Yield: 1.5 cups

Classic Pesto Recipe

Classic Pesto Recipe

It's our classic pesto recipe and how to store pesto and more questions are answered right here! Plus recipes that use pesto and how to keep it green.

Prep Time 1 minute
Cook Time 3 minutes
Total Time 4 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 Cups Basil, packed
  • 3 Cloves of Garlic, unpeeled
  • 1/4 Cup plus 1 1/2 Tablespoons Pine Nuts
  • 1/4 Cup plus 1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the pine nuts and garlic.
  2. Toast for a few minutes or until golden brown, shaking the pan occasionally to toss the pine nuts and promote even color.
  3. Once the pine nuts are done, remove them from the pan and continue to toast the garlic.
  4. Remove it from the pan and remove the skin.
  5. Wait until both are cooled.
  6. Place the basil, pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil in a blender and pulse until smooth, but still a tad grainy in texture.
  7. Place everything in a bowl and stir in the cheese.
  8. Salt to taste and store according to post directions.

Notes

You can adjust the garlic to your own taste, don't love it, just use 2 cloves! See the post for details on storing pesto in a mason jar with a little olive oil in the fridge.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

1.5 cups

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving:Calories: 409 Total Fat: 40g Saturated Fat: 6g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 31g Cholesterol: 10mg Sodium: 806mg Carbohydrates: 10g Fiber: 4g Sugar: 1g Protein: 8g

 

Creamy Pesto Pizza

So you think you love pesto? Just wait until you have it on a pizza! Two slice of Creamy Pesto Pizza.

Pesto Pasta

It only takes 15 minutes to create this pesto pasta.

Pesto Pasta on a white serving bowl. on top of a white dish.

Skinny Creamy Pesto Tortellini

Tortellini is a cheese filled pasta that pairs perfectly with a creamy pesto sauce.

Scooping Skinny Creamy Pesto Tortellini with a silver spoon out of a silver bowl.

Lean Pesto Tilapia

Looking to eat better and healthier? This lean pesto tilapia is an under 30 minute healthy recipe.

Lean Pesto Tilapia on a white plate with a silver fork and silver butter knife.

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Carrian Cheney

Lover of all things beautiful, good and delicious. Wife, mother, friend, foodie.

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92 comments on “Classic Pesto Recipe and How to Store Pesto”

  1. I love your recipes and I will try them, just with few adjustments on the ingredients availability here in the Philippines! Basil / Pesto dishes were not a common dish here, it’s mostly found in classy restaurant and pricy.. I’m a member of organic farming and I grow basil in pots and I love to use them in my cooking. We’re having an upcoming bazaar and I’m wondering if I can jar preserved pesto mixture for gift and selling purposes, just like tomato paste. But as I read, it’s best if kept frozen… Air dry would be the other option.

  2. I live in Central America and pine nuts are not available. I have used cashews, sunflower seeds or macadamia nuts. One you would prefer? And would toasting them help?
    Thanks,
    Susan

  3. Thanks, Carrian! Any idea how many leaves one can strip without affecting the growth of a Basil Plant? It’s great if you write a little about it

  4. That’s looking so good & I love how easy it is! One quick question, Can I use any type of oil, instead of olive oil? Like- Coconut oil.

  5. Hello,
     Thank you for the amazing receipe plus the good tips!!
    But if you can help me to know how to store pesto sauce in can (as for tomatoes paste..) I think we can do as bain-marie methode.
    If you have a helpful reply, please Im waiting for your prompt reply..
    Have a nice week full of delicious food!!

  6. thanks for the simple pesto recipe and detailed step by step pics. My kids love pesto so I just saved this.

  7. Those expensive air sealers can be prohibitive for a lot of people I got one from Amazon for less then $30 it uses the same bags as the expensive ones and (yes it can take a few tries to learn how to use it effectively) plus you can buy less expensive bag rolls it is made by VonShef. It looks good and I have been using it almost every day for a year. It fits in a kitchen drawer with the rolls of bags which is great as well

  8. needed to know how to store Pesto – and whoolah! came upon you folks. Don’t have time to peruse site today, but have listed you on my Logo/Website list of recipes I copy into my own format–severe ADHD folks (approx. 20+%) need a numbered procedure to follow, not paragraphs. ALL recipes are in paragraph format!!! And I also need a picture. So, if I hear from you by email, I’ll be glad to send you sample. Thanks for storage idea. Also looking forward to reading your tips.

  9. Can anyone tell me why not to stir pesto once its made???

  10. I use very similar recipe for my pesto but use cupcake pan instead of ice cube trays. Each one makes about one serving.

    After freezing I put them in zip top plastic bags

  11. Love your recipe for pesto sauce – I have made it before, but will try roasting the pine nuts and lots of garlic. I buy aged Parmesan in a large block,
    but find it very dry What other cheese to you suggest?
    Love your website.

  12. There’s so many nice pesto recipes on your blog guys! I can see you’re a true pesto experts, and I’m gonna start using your pesto recipe immediately. I do have some recipe, but I do not toast the garlic, and I think it would be a game changer for me.

    I don’t prefer storing pesto inside the fridge, somehow it changes the color and loses its freshness, probably has to do with the amount of olive oil I add on the top…

    Thanks for the recipe, also love the bonus tips at the end.

  13. Thank you for your recipe and the canning instructions. I have always done the ice cube tray method which works great. Once I have poured my pesto into the little cubes I pour olive oil over the top and then cover it with plastic wrap fitting close to the pesto. Once it’s frozen I take it out of the trays and place the pesto cubes in a freezer ziploc baggie and then put it back in the freezer. Then I can pull out as many cubes as needed – which is about 1-2 TBS per cube. I’m not sure how long it will last as I use pesto on many things. But I love having it over the winter season.

  14. I have been making and storing pesto for decades. Our recipes are almost identical. I fill the blender with the basil and then add oil and salt. I pulse and then seal it into jars ranging from 1/2 pints to quarts, I store this in my cool pantry (basement when we lived in Colorado which was always a few degrees cooler than our home. It will be fine and safe to eat for at least a year. When I am ready to use it I dump it back into the blender or magic bullit and add cheese and parmesean. I love doing it this way because it allows me to harvest all my basil before first frost and if I want to do a walnut or other nut and cheese pesto or just have some very fresh tasting basil when I drain the olive oil!

    • Wonderful tip!! Thank you for commenting!

    • I have avoided doing this because I could not verify it’s safety or taste…now I know it can be done, I will try as soon as my basil has grown enough to be harvested…oh I am looking forward to this!!!!

    • How do you go about sealing it?? water bath? I have a lot of basil and need to use it before it flowers

    • I’m wondering about safety….. Are you storing the jars after “sealing” in a water bath or just putting the lids on tight? I think the hot water bath would change the color and maybe flavor too. If you are just tightening the lids and storing in a cool place, I’d like to know approximately what temperature you are storing them. Thanks to anyone who can answer this.

  15. If I were to make multiple batches of this, do you think it would be suitable to can/preserve (without freezing) by submerging sealed jars of pesto in a hot water bath?

  16. this is truly a classic pesto recipe! Thanks!
    If freezing in 4 oz. jars how much cheese do you add when you defrost to use.

  17. I got everything together, and was getting ready to make your basil pesto recipe (I love your website, by the way), when I decided to take a look at the pesto pasta recipe. I notice that the proportions are different – while this receipt calls for 3 cups of basil the pasta recipe calls for 1 cup, however the oil and cheese measurements are about the same as for this recipe with 3 times the amount of basil. Is this correct?

    • Hi! So this is just for good ol’ pesto while the pasta recipe is more of a pesto sauce so there’s less basil etc but still all of that olive oil so it goes all over the pasta versus just clumps of it. You could always use the pesto over the pasta if you love the full flavor. We do that all the time.

      • I want to give the pesto as Christmas gifts, but that’s more than a month away. I want to make it now and store it for Christmas presents. How do you recommend I store it?

        Mary Jo Labayog

      • Hi Mary Jo, You would have to make it and freeze it in storage bags or freeze in ice cube trays and then in storage bags then defrost into the containers you’ll be using. 🙂

  18. Thank you for sharing this recipe. I love Mediterranean tastes being Greek and Italian and Greek cooking. MY TIP: add zest of half a lemon and the juice of half a lemon with a little balsamic of vinegar Di Modena. Got those not so fond of garlic reduce the garlic and add ginger. All of the above add huge flavour and aroma and keeps the sauce in the fridge for a couple of months. Remember your sauce must always be topped with olive oil. Fresh pesto sauce is great, but pesto sauce that has rested in the jar for a couple of weeks is magic, as all the ingredients kind of ferment and give all their goodness.

    Ciao from Greece

  19. I have three basil plants in my garden. Enough to supply family and friends. I know to omit the cheese when freezing, but is it ok to leave in the pine nuts when freezing, and also can I ship it over night to my brother in California?
    Love you site!

    • Thanks Karen! I leave in the pine nuts since they are chopped so fine and if you overnight it you would want to use one of those cold containers since it isn’t sealed.

  20. I have three basil plants that have gone crazy. Enough basil for the whole neighborhood. I know to leave out the cheese when freezing, but what about the pine nuts? Also can I ship this in the mail if I overnight it? My brother would love some of my pesto.

  21. My husband and I love pesto and have made it a few times, with very good luck using a basic recipes. However, in all the posts no one mentions rinsing the basil after it is cut and removing the stems. Is either step necessary? Thank you for your recipes.

    • Hi Dianne,
      If the basil is fresh from the garden I rinse it a little but otherwise it isn’t necessary. As for the stems, unless they are long we don’t worry about trimming them off. 🙂

  22. Hi i have tried pesto before but i always stored the pesto in the freezer. can i store pesto in a bottle without putting it in the fridge or freezer? Will it go bad ?

  23. Enjoyed this recipe — the toasted garlic and pine nuts give it a great flavor!

  24. This is my first time EVER making pesto! I love it! I’ve been snarfing down the Buff Pesto Bowls at Noodles & Co. and thinking all the while “I could be making this at home!” So glad I came across your recipe……and I’ve signed up to receive your emails, too. Tonight I will be making my own Buff Pesto Bowl with spinach, sauteed grape tomatoes and mushrooms, and prawns tossed in this pesto! I CANNOT WAIT! Thank you so much!

  25. Thank you for this – we’ve made pesto for years, but didn’t know either of the Italian tricks for keeping it a) green and b) flavorful after freezing. Love your website.

  26. would pesto be good for saute-ing eggplant ?or perhaps marinade chicken with pesto then grill it ?

  27. Does it have to be extra virgin olive oil?

  28. No matter if some one searches for his vital thing, so he/she needs to be available that in detail,
    therefore that thing is maintained over here.

  29. Adding a Italian (plain, not curly) parsley to your blender mix will keep the pesto bright green and not affect the flavor (eg. 4 cups basil/1 cup Italian, plain, parsley). Also, I have been delighted with the flavor/texture when substituting English walnuts for pine nuts. I also add about 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter to the blender mix. Freezing is a good way to preserve pesto. We love to mix the pesto with real mayonaise, once thawed.

  30. Thanks Carrian! Any idea how many leaves one can strip without affecting the growth of a Basil Plant?

  31. Pingback: Garden pesto, sort of | Wild Economies

  32. This is a great recipe. I especially like the toasting of the garlic with the pine nuts. I add twice as much garlic and prefer the sheep cheese pecarino romano and add a lot more of it, splendid!

  33. When measuring, pack the Basil?

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  35. Hi! Now that summer 2014 is officially here and new basil is flowing in my garden like weeds, I really feel like doing this. But what do you think, how long will this pesto hold in the refigerator with the olive oil? And how long can I possibly travel with it (example: I freeze it at home, take it out, travel for 3 hours and then freeze or refrigerate in my dorm again)? Or maybe can I freeze it, then travel for 3 hours and then freeze again?

    • Hi Helli! We freeze it, take it out for a few hours to cook and freeze it again and it’s usually fine. Or we will freeze and then use in the fridge for the next two weeks but it does go bad rather quickly still. Definitely not like condiments that seem to last forever. Good luck!

  36. Pingback: Cilantro Pesto with Chick Peas - The Dinner-Mom

  37. This is truly a classic pesto recipe. I followed it with all the ingredients but toasted the pine nuts and garlic in the oven. Used Pecorino Romano instead of Parmesan so didn’t add as much salt. It is perfect and the roasting of the garlic took some of the edge off, although I love garlic. This will be my go to recipe for classic pesto. Thanks! Your website is great and I have bookmarked it for future reference.

  38. Love all your tips, thank you

  39. I grow Basil and often make pesto. However everyone using X cups of basil. What is never stated is this measurement loose or packed? I can fill the measuring cup with the leaves and read X cups, but if I push them down, I can pack more in. So for your 3 cups, are you measuring this with a loose fill or do you pack it?

  40. My family loves pesto pasta! So I happened along your site and thought “I have been trying to think of a healthy Christmas gift and what a great idea to make pesto!” Only problem is that it needs to be refrigerated right away correct? I’ve never tried to transport it anywhere so any thoughts? Pesto pasta is however, my go to potluck dish but suppose that’s a different situation as well. Good idea bad idea?

    • that is an amazing idea!! Do they live far away? The olive oil really does hold in so much so if you filled a jar or tupperware quite full and then covered in olive oil you may be safe. Otherwise you could always use a vacuum sealer to remove the air from a jar or bag to keep it fresh.

      • I’m psyched! Thanks for the inspiration!

        Not necessarily. The farthest we travel is 2 hours. But when you go to parties and such, Hosts don’t always have time to put away their gifts so the pesto could potentially be out for a few hours. (Although, I suppose I could put it in the fridge for them.) Anyway, I would want to make big batches ahead of time. Then store in 4oz. Ball (as suggested). So do I refrigerate right away once I make it? And then when we give it out it should be ok for several hours until refrigerated again? Do you think its ok to take it in and out of cold?

        Thanks!

  41. My father-in-law has been making huge batches at the end of the growing season and freezing it for years. Like the tip at the end, he doesn’t add the cheese before freezing. To keep it from going bad, he freezes most of it in serving sizes by using the smallest canning jars (I believe they are 4oz.) This is perfect for a family meal for us and we don’t waste any or worry about mold.

  42. Any tips on how to avoid mold? Id like to make this recipe for sure, I’ve bought the one from Costco and within a month I had mold growing in the jar, I always kept it sealed and refrigerated…

  43. Yes! I need to do this before all the pretty Summer basil is gooooooone.

  44. Mmmm pesto-I hadn’t tried it until I was older too but now I loove it!

  45. Mmm! Nothing best homemade pest! It’s so fresh and so mush better than store bought! Such a helpful post, I love your tips!

  46. I totally have to try homemade pesto before summer is over! This looks fantastic and your tips are really helpful, thank you for sharing 😀

  47. Dear Carrian, wonderful blog ! Your recipe is approved also from Italy, even if pesto ortodoxy wouldn’t accept food processors. Anyway, here we are in the XXI C and so… welcome food processors ! 😉
    Two italian tips:
    1) put ice in the fp and mix, to cool your robot, befor preparing your pesto. This will help in keeping your pesto more green.
    2) If freezing, do not freeze with Parmigiano cheese inside. Its taste will change. Add it express before using your pesto, after de-feezing.
    Sorry for my english, a kiss from Verona !