This post covers how to make pesto sauce, how to store it, and more! If you’ve never made homemade pesto before, you’ve been missing out!
Homemade Basil Pesto Sauce Recipe
I don’t know why, but I had never had pesto until college. At least I’m pretty sure I hadn’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.
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-Minute 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 classic pesto recipe.
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. But we can talk about storing it after we discuss the actual classic pesto recipe.
Basil Pesto Ingredients
This is such an easy pesto recipe! It requires minimal ingredients to whip up. Here’s what all goes into this homemade pesto sauce:
- Fresh basil
- Garlic cloves
- Pine nuts
- Olive oil
- Grated Parmesan cheese
The measurements for each can be found in the recipe card below.
How to Make Pesto Sauce
To start this homemade pesto recipe, I just heat up a skillet over medium heat, add both the garlic cloves and the pine nuts 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 its skin when it’s toasted this way. I love that. So, yes you read right, toast the garlic in its thin skin and then remove 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.
How to Store Pesto
Storing Pesto in a Jar
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.
Storing Pesto in a Vacuum Bag
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.
How Long Does Pesto Last?
This easy basil pesto sauce will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator if stored in an airtight container. If you use the olive oil method shared above, the shelf life will be extended.
Can You Freeze Pesto?
Yes! Homemade basil pesto sauce freezes incredibly well. Simply make the recipe as instructed, then seal the pesto in an airtight container or freezer bag.
Alternately, spoon the homemade pesto into ice cube trays and freeze until solid. Once hardened, transfer the pesto cubes to a freezer bag. This way, you wind up with single servings of frozen pesto!
Our Favorite Pesto Uses
We love pesto on everything from egg whites to garlic bread to chicken to pasta. I love having a jar handy in the fridge or freezer! Here are a few of our favorite recipes that use pesto sauce:
- 20-Minute Cheesy Pesto Pasta
- Pesto Pepperoni and Sausage Grilled Pizza
- Sun Dried Tomato, Bacon, & Pesto Grilled Cheese
- 15-Minute Grilled Veggies with Pesto
- Pesto Veggie Foil Packs
- 15-Minute Pesto Pasta
- Cheesy Pesto Tarts
Tips for the Best Pesto Sauce
- Put ice in the food processor and mix. This will cool your machine before preparing your pesto and will help in keeping your pesto greener.
- Because this easy pesto recipe uses so few ingredients, it’s important that you buy the best quality ingredients you can.
- Use extra virgin olive oil and freshly grated Parm for the best flavor.
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:
- Traditional Bolognese Recipe
- Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
- Easy Pizza Sauce
- Garden Veggie Marinara Sauce
- Easy Beef Ragu
- Cilantro Pesto
- Creamy Sausage Alfredo Sauce
- Healthier Avocado Pesto
- Spicy Sausage Pasta Sauce
- ALL OF OUR PASTA RECIPES!
Classic Pesto Recipe and How to Store Pesto
Classic Pesto Recipe
- 1/4 Cup plus 1 1/2 Tablespoons Pine Nuts
- 3 Cloves Garlic, unpeeled
- 3 Cups Fresh Basil, packed
- 1/4 Cup plus 1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1/4 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
- Salt, (to taste)
- Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the pine nuts and garlic.
- Toast for a few minutes or until golden brown, shaking the pan occasionally to toss the pine nuts and promote even color.
- Once the pine nuts are done, remove them from the pan and continue to toast the garlic.
- Remove garlic from the pan and remove the skin.
- Wait until both garlic and pine nuts are cooled.
- Place the basil, pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil in a blender and pulse until smooth, but still a tad grainy in texture.
- Place everything in a bowl and stir in the cheese.
- Salt to taste and store according to post directions.
- You can adjust the garlic to your own taste. It you 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.
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sorry just saw this now will be making this soon can i use vegan parmesan as am a vegan i love pesto sooooooooooo much perfect for my pizza and pasta will dm you if i make this and let you know how it goes Thanks Ramya
sorry i meant will dm you guys if i make this and let you guys know how it goes sorry again Thanks Ramya
Can’t wait to hear what you think!
I used the recipe and unfortunately ran out of olive oil. Is there anything that I can use when packing in a jar that will keep it fresh looking until I can get to a store for more olive oil?
Love this article!😍😍
Loved this recipe!!
Thank you Maria!
Perfect! Delicious! Thank you for the freezing tips.
Thank you for the feedback Kara!
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.
You can put it in a jar and keep it refrigerated. It will last up to 2 weeks that way.
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?
Hi Susan! I would use sunflower seeds for sure. That will give you the most similar flavor as pine nuts.
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
We’ve learned that stripping about 1/3 of the plant is the best.
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.
Unfortunately pesto does need an olive oil for that classic Italian flavor.
Hiba salameh mazloum
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!!
Anna | blenderauthority.com
thanks for the simple pesto recipe and detailed step by step pics. My kids love pesto so I just saved this.
oh good! Thanks!
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
What a great tip! And I think learning a few times how to use something is totally worth it. Thanks!
Thank you,thank you,thank you
Kathryn E. Starr
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.
Can anyone tell me why not to stir pesto once its made???
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
I use ice cube trays too; I put the pesto in each cube and pour oil over top to keep air out..works well.
I’m doing that lately and I’ve started doing it for sun-dried tomato pesto too
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.
Oh pecorino romano or asiago are great too!
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.
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.
I love freezing it. It’s just so nice to have that fresh pesto all winter isn’t it!
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!!!!
Oh I’m so glad it helped then! Good luck!
How do you go about sealing it?? water bath? I have a lot of basil and need to use it before it flowers
We actually love to just freeze our pesto as it keeps that bright and fresh color and flavor. 🙂
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.
I live in Colorado and we put all our jars of jelly, pickles, peaches, etc. In the basement. My question is like most “canning” do you have to use a pressure cooker with boiling water to seal the jars like you do with jelly and salsa? It wasnt obvious in any comments or the recipie…or do you not do that part?
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?
You can do canning with pesto however there is a little bit of a back and forth on if it’s really a good method. Here’s a good article on it.
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.
Honestly, the cheese is really preference as many use different amounts. I would just sprinkle in a tablespoon and go from there until your desired flavor is met.
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.
Mary Jo Labayog
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. 🙂
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
Oh I just love your tips! Cannot wait to try!
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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 ?
Unfortunately you do need to keep it in the fridge or freezer to keep it fresh.
Enjoyed this recipe — the toasted garlic and pine nuts give it a great flavor!
Thank you so much!
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!
Sounds wonderful and we are so glad you enjoyed it!
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.
So sweet, thank you Louise!
would pesto be good for saute-ing eggplant ?or perhaps marinade chicken with pesto then grill it ?
Oh, absolutely! I use it with everything, even my egg whites and it’s so fresh and easy.
Does it have to be extra virgin olive oil?
You can use any olive oil 🙂
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.
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.
Thanks Carrian! Any idea how many leaves one can strip without affecting the growth of a Basil Plant?
Barbara, I take quite a few but try to leave around 1/4, but not sure it that’s best. I’ll have to research
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!
We looooove extra garlic in ours as well. 🙂
When measuring, pack the Basil?
yes, pack it in, 🙂
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!
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.
Joyce!! Thank you so much for your sweet comment. I look forward to hearing from you more!
Christine & Peter Bruckner
Love all your tips, thank you
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?
It does say packed above.
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?
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.
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…
The olive oil over the top helps with that and of course the fresher the basil the better, but it can happen no matter what.
ashley – baker by nature
Yes! I need to do this before all the pretty Summer basil is gooooooone.
Kayle (The Cooking Actress)
Mmmm pesto-I hadn’t tried it until I was older too but now I loove it!
Isn’t it the best?!
Mmm! Nothing best homemade pest! It’s so fresh and so mush better than store bought! Such a helpful post, I love your tips!
Totally better than store bought, although I’ll admit that costco has a good one
Consuelo @ Honey & Figs
I totally have to try homemade pesto before summer is over! This looks fantastic and your tips are really helpful, thank you for sharing 😀
Oh, I hope you do! It’s so wonderful
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 !
I love your tips!! Adding them to the post now!