Basil Pesto

This herby, green sauce tastes like the essence of summer in a bowl.

Basil Pesto
Photo: Photo by Huge Galdones / Food Styling by Christina Zerkis
Active Time:
5 mins
Total Time:
10 mins
1 cup

This basil pesto recipe is perfect whether you twirl pasta in it, spoon it over grilled vegetables, dollop it into minestrone, or serve it as a dipping sauce alongside seared shrimp. This is a classic version of basil pesto, albeit made in a food processor instead of with a mortar and pestle. Be sure to add the oil slowly, so it emulsifies the sauce.

Use this recipe as a baseline for the amount and type of pesto you prefer, and adjust it to your needs. You can cut this recipe in half for a smaller amount, or make extra; this recipe is easily doubled or tripled, and leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days when topped with a layer of oil to prevent the pesto from oxidizing. If you are making a large batch of pesto to stash in the freezer, omit the cheese for now and add it when you are ready to thaw and use the sauce.

You can also customize this recipe with different nuts, greens, cheese, and oil. Swap in walnuts, pecans, or pistachios for the pine nuts, and use parsley, arugula, or blanched kale in addition to or instead of basil. A sharp cheese like cheddar or Gruyère can be subbed in for the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and avocado or nut oil can be used as alternatives to olive oil. You can further make this sauce your own creation by stirring in a pinch of smoky chile powder, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, or grated lemon zest after blending the pesto.  


  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts

  • 3 cups basil leaves (1 large bunch)

  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed

  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon  kosher salt


  1. Toast pine nuts in a small skillet over medium, stirring frequently, until golden, 5 minutes (you can also toast them in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes). Transfer nuts to the bowl of a food processor to cool.

  2. Pulse nuts with basil, garlic, and cheese until blended, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, 5 pulses. With the machine running, slowly pour in olive oil, and puree until almost smooth. Season with salt and store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 5 days.

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