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Basil Pesto Sauce

Basil pesto sauce is so easy to make, it’s almost silly to buy it–and not to mention the homemade version tastes fresher, lighter and better than anything you can buy in the store. Take 5 minutes and whip up a big batch. 

basil pesto sauce

I had my first bowl of pesto-covered pasta goodness when I was 10. I wasn’t sure about eating green spaghetti, but I learned pretty quick how good it really was.

Today, basil pesto sauce is everywhere.

People make it with peas, arugula, and I’ve even seen broccoli rabe. But no matter how many versions there are, there’s nothing like the good old basic.

Spread it on a sandwich with melted mozzarella, toss it in pasta, or add it to any dish that needs a little spark.

Tips for the best basil pesto sauce

  • Use quality ingredients. Because there’s very little to bog this recipe down, every ingredient needs to shine. Don’t you dare use powdered parmesan cheese from a can. I’ll hunt you down.
  • Get a block of real parmigana, use a good olive oil that hasn’t been watered down with other ingredients, and fresh basil and parsley.
  • I don’t recommend adding fresh garlic but you can if you want to. I just find that it totally overpowers all of the other flavors and your breath will cause people to faint for the rest of the day. It’s not really worth it.
  • The traditional recipe uses pine nuts, but I use walnuts here and we vastly prefer the flavor. If you have an allergy to nuts, it’s fine to leave them out.

How much basil pesto sauce to add to pasta

That’s really to taste, but I do about a tablespoon of pesto to every cup of cooked pasta. If you find that your pesto is too thick, add some of the water your pasta cooked in (a tablespoon or two) to the pasta and pesto and stir. It will help it create more of a sauce like consistency.

How long is basil pesto good for?

Basil pesto can be stored in a jar in the fridge for up to two weeks. I like to pour a layer of olive oil on the surface then place a tight lid on. I use a mason jar for mine–if the pesto is exposed to air it will darken and may change flavor slightly so the olive oil on the top helps protect the flavor and color.

Can basil pesto sauce be frozen?

Yes. I love to freeze big batches of it every year when basil is in season. To freeze, you can fill an empty ice cube tray with the finished pesto and chill until firm. Pop them out and store them in an air tight container in the freezer for up to 3 months.

To use them, you can take out a few cubes and let them thaw at room temperature or stick them in the microwave for 25 to 30 seconds.

Basil Pesto Sauce

Basil pesto sauce can take a lot of forms and have a lot of different ingredients but the most familiar make the most flavorful in my opinion. 
5 from 2 votes
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian
Prep Time: 6 minutes
Total Time: 6 minutes
Servings: 10 people
Calories: 202kcal
Author: Rachel Ballard


  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup packed Italian parsley
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup walnuts chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 2/3 cup olive oil


  • Wash and dry the basil and parsley leaves well. Then in a food processor pulse all the ingredients except the olive oil, just to get things started. Then with the processor running, stream in the olive oil until everything is smooth.
  • Freeze any leftovers in an ice cube tray. I love to make a big batch in the late summer and enjoy that fresh flavor all through the winter.


Calories: 202kcal

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