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Fresh Basil Pesto Sauce (The Perfect Ratio)

5 from 9 community reviews

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This 10-minute pesto recipe teaches the steps for making a classic homemade basil pesto sauce in a food processor or blender. Using a tested-and-perfected ratio of fresh basil leaves, nuts, grated cheese and olive oil, this easy pesto recipe has an ideal texture — never too oily or too dry. Toss this essential sauce with pasta, pizza, salads and so much more!

Fresh basil pesto sauce in a ceramic bowl, with a spoon dipping into it.
The correct ratio of oil, herbs and nuts creates a silky-textured pesto sauce.

It’s hard to imagine a world without basil pesto in it. Pesto sauce is a basic pantry ingredient that’s so versatile! It happens to be one of the best sauces for pasta, a tasty topping for roasted vegetables, as well as a delicious pizza sauce.

Although the authentic savory sauce (pesto alla genovese) is beloved all over the world, it originated in Liguria, Italy. According to Italian food expert Anna Del Conte, basil grown in the Genoa region is “sweeter and more aromatic than anywhere else, thanks to the perfect balance of humidity and hot sun.”

No matter where you get your basil — from your own garden, farmer’s market or grocery store — when you have an abundance on hand, use it up to make a quick batch or two of pesto. I use store-bought pesto sauce all the time, but there’s really nothing better than the fresh taste of homemade pesto, especially to make effortless recipes like chicken with pesto pasta.

Whether you’re making pesto from scratch for the first time or not, use this recipe as a guideline and customize the ingredients to your taste.

Ingredients for a pesto recipe arranged on a surface, including fresh basil, bowls of grated cheese, nuts, salt and olive oil.
Use a handful of ingredients to make the best basil pesto

Basil pesto sauce: Ingredient checklist

  • Fresh basil: Traditionally, Italian pesto is all about fresh basil, a leafy aromatic herb in the mint family. In theory, any pesto sauce, like a fresh green sauce recipe, can be made with other soft green herbs such as parsley, arugula or even spinach.
  • Olive oil: The flavor of the oil you use will really come through. I suggest using your favorite buttery-tasting extra-virgin olive oil.
  • Nuts: Nuts help bind the pesto together. Use your choice of walnuts, pine nuts, almonds or pistachios to make pesto. Be sure they are unsalted and sample one or two before blending the pesto — nuts are famous for becoming rancid if they’re not stored properly.
  • Cheese: I prefer to use Parmesan cheese or pecorino Romano, and sometimes a half and half blend of each. Other hard grating cheeses such as asiago or grana padano are also delicious in pesto.
  • Garlic: Use one or two small cloves garlic to make about 1 generous teaspoon. You don’t need to overdo the garlic, as it will add a harsh flavor to the sauce.

Recipe steps

  • Pesto is basically a blend of ingredients pureed into a sauce. It comes down to a perfect ratio of nuts, oil, cheese and herbs to achieve an evenly saucy texture that isn’t pasty or overly oily. Pesto is versatile — use it as a sauce, topping for minestrone soup or as a spread.
  • Traditionally pounded by hand in a mortar and pestle, pesto sauce comes together in seconds when blended in a food processor or blender.

Storing pesto sauce and other tips

  • Basil pesto keeps refrigerated in a sealed container for about a week.
  • Drizzle a little more oil over the surface after each use to keep the basil from oxidizing (turning brown).
  • Make the pesto in separate batches if you want to double or triple the recipe
  • Pesto freezes well — portion it into plastic freezer bags, silicone storage bags or small glass jars. You can defrost in the refrigerator overnight or by immersing the container in hot water.
Fresh basil pesto sauce in a ceramic bowl, with a spoon dipping into it.

Fresh Basil Pesto Sauce (Perfect Ratio)

Karen Tedesco
Using my tested-and-perfected ratio of fresh basil leaves, nuts, grated cheese and olive oil, make an easy basil pesto sauce with an ideal texture — never too oily or too dry. Toss this essential sauce with pasta, pizza, salads and so much more! This 10-minute classic homemade basil pesto recipe is made in a food processor or blender.
Print Pin
5 from 9 community reviews
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Sauces
Cuisine Italian
Servings 16 tablespoons

Ingredients

Yield: About 1 cup pesto sauce (enough for 1-2 pounds pasta)

  • ¼ cup (35 g) unsalted nuts, such as walnuts, pine nuts, almonds or pistachios
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or other hard grating cheese, such as pecorino Romano
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated or finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 4-5 cups fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
  • ½ cup (120 ml) extra virgin olive oil

Instructions 

  • Add the nuts, grated cheese and salt to the bowl of a food processor or blender. Pulse until the mixture looks like medium-fine crumbs.
  • Add the garlic. Pile all the basil leaves on top of the nuts — you don't need to pack it down. Pour the oil over the top.
  • Process or blend until the pesto looks blended and creamy-textured, which will take less than one minute. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl as needed during the process.
  • Use the pesto right away, or transfer it to a jar or plastic storage container with a lid. Before covering the pesto, drizzle a little olive oil over the surface to seal in and preserve the color and flavor.

Karen’s Notes and Tips

    • Basil pesto keeps refrigerated in a sealed container for about a week.
    • Drizzle a little more oil over the surface after each use to keep the basil from oxidizing (turning brown).
    • Unless your processor is large, make the pesto in separate batches if you want to double or triple the recipe.
    • Pesto freezes well for up to 2 months — portion it into plastic freezer bags, silicone storage bags or small glass jars. You can defrost at room temperature, in the refrigerator overnight or by immersing the container in hot water.
    • Use your choice of walnuts, pine nuts, almonds or pistachios to make pesto. Be sure they are unsalted and sample one or two before blending the pesto — nuts are famous for becoming rancid if they’re not stored properly.
    • For extra flavor, try toasting the nuts for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool to room temperature and proceed with the recipe steps.

Nutrition

Calories: 80kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 98mg | Potassium: 29mg | Fiber: 0.2g | Sugar: 0.1g | Vitamin A: 329IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 32mg | Iron: 0.3mg

Nutrition facts are calculated by third-party software. If you have specific dietary needs, please refer to your favorite calculator.

Did you make this recipe? Search @Familystylefood or tag #familystylefood on Pinterest
Recipe developer Karen Tedesco of the popular website Familystyle Food in her kitchen making a kale salad.

Hey, I’m Karen

Creator of Familystyle Food

I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about creating elevated dinners with everyday ingredients. Find simplified recipes made from scratch and enjoy incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    The real deal. Not merely perfect. Simply perfect! (Why do so many recipe writers feel the need to gussy up everything. Nutritional yeast? Are you kidding?) I’d give it 10 stars if I could.