Fresh Basil Pesto

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I'm a Certified Health Coach, longtime blogger, and host of Elizabeth Eats on YouTube. In addition to writing recipes (I love to eat!), I'm a strong believer that life is too short to settle for anything less than living your best life.


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Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe in white bowl

Nothing beats a classic basil pesto made with fresh ingredients.

Pesto is incredibly simple to make and adds incredible flavor to your food. You get a huge return on your investment for the quick work of making it and the wonderful flavor you get.

Pesto is a dish from Italy that’s typically made with fresh basil, fresh garlic, extra virgin olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano (or another hard cheese like Romano), and pine nuts. Fresh lemon juice is often added but not necessary to the original recipe. It’s common in America to substitute pine nuts with almonds or walnuts because pine nuts can be expensive.

Not only is a delicious, but it’s also packed with nutrients and good for you.

Pesto Ingredients in Food Processor

Pesto Ingredients:

  • Fresh basil: The star ingredient. Fresh basil pesto is a classic for a reason. If you’re short on basil, you can use 1 cup of packed fresh basil combined with 1 cup of fresh baby spinach or fresh arugula.
  • Pine nuts: Pine nuts are classic in pesto, but it’s become common to substitute other nuts (like walnuts, almonds, or shelled pistachios) as pine nuts have become incredibly expensive. I recommend mixing up it but only using 1 type of nut per batch for a clean, classic flavor. I love almond pesto and pistachio pesto, too.
  • Fresh garlic: Fresh garlic is loaded with flavor and health benefits. Always use fresh garlic cloves and skip the pre-minced stuff in the jars as it’s loaded with preservatives.
  • Extra virgin olive oil: Use something you like the taste of. I love the Thrive Market extra virgin olive oil for its mild flavor and great price. Thrive Market also guaranteed it’s real olive oil because fake olive oil is a thing. (Get 40% off your first order here.)
  • Parmigiano Reggiano (or another hard cheese like Romano); use the real stuff. Parmesan cheese in cans on the shelf is loaded with powdered fillers and preservatives. When making a fresh classic pesto like this, it’s worth getting the real stuff. Look for real Parmigiano Reggiano, you can often find it in the cheese section. It’s sold by the pound, so ask the person at the cheese counter to cut a big piece in half if what they have out is too expensive. You only need about 2-3 ounces to make 1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan.
  • Fresh lemon juice (optional): I love fresh lemon juice in pesto, but it’s totally optional.
Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe with lemons

How to Use Pesto

We love it on Pesto Pasta with Chicken. You can use fresh basil pesto on any pasta you like, or put it on fish or chicken to add flavor to any dish.

Pesto Pasta with Chicken Recipe in large white pot Elizabeth Rider

How to Store Pesto

The fresh basil in pesto can oxidize if left uncovered for too long. To store, add the pesto to a container with a lid that’s just the right size to make sure it’s not exposed to too much air. It also helps to put just enough extra virgin olive oil on top of the pesto before putting the lid on to create a seal to ensure the surface area isn’t exposed to air. Store in the fridge with the lid on for up to 4 days.

Pesto freezes well in a freezer-safe container with a lid, and it’s also beneficial to use the olive oil on the top method to seal the top before you put the lid on to freeze, too.

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Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe in white bowl

Fresh Basil Pesto

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  • Author: Elizabeth Rider
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1.5 cups 1x
  • Category: Dips & Spreads
  • Method: Food Processor
  • Cuisine: Italian


Fresh basil pesto is a classic dish that never disappoints. We love it in the summertime and use it on chicken, fish, veggies and as wonderful spread on good-quality bread.


Units Scale
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves (if desired, substitute half the basil with fresh baby spinach or fresh arugula)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (option to substitute with almonds, walnuts or pistachios)
  • 23 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

(optional: 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice)


This classic basil pesto recipe is best made in a food processor. A blender also works, just be careful to not over blend it.

  1. To make quick work of mincing the garlic, put the whole peeled garlic cloves in the food processor and turn it on until it’s finely minced. It will stick to the sides, and that’s ok.
  2. Add the basil leaves, nuts, and salt (and lemon juice, if using) into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a 4-5 times to break everything up. Scrape down the sides, then put the lid back on.
  3. Turn the food processor on and with it running, slowly add the olive oil through the hole at the top. This should take about 20 seconds and the pesto will form. Scrape down the sides, then pulse it a few more times to make a uniform pesto.
  4. Remove the lid and blade and stir in the cheese. You can do this right in the food processor bowl or in a separate serving bowl. Stiring in the cheese at the end instead of adding it to the food processor allows it to retain more texture.
  5. Serve immediately or use in a dish such as Pesto Pasta with Chicken.
  6. To store, put it in a small container and add a little olive oil to the top to help prevent oxidation. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge up to 4 days. Freezes well.


Classic basil pesto contains fresh basil, fresh garlic, pine nuts, and a fresh hard cheese like Parmesan or Romano. Feel free to get creative with a mix of different herbs and/or nuts. The options are endless!

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Hi, I'm Elizabeth

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