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Easy Basil Pesto Recipe

Easy Basil Pesto Recipe
photo of basil pesto in a mason jar with pumpkin seeds and a sprig of basil for decoration.

Are you looking to start making homemade pesto?

Basil pesto is one of the easiest things to make and it only requires about seven ingredients and a blender or food processor. And there is nothing that needs to be cooked. Sure, there is always the pre-made stuff at the grocery store you can buy at a decent price. But the pesto you can whip up at home will cost you no more than $6 (if not less) to make, is at least double the amount you’ll get from one of those small jars, and it really only takes about 15 minutes of your time. Let’s not forget it tastes better too!

The best part of all?

This easy basil pesto recipe uses pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds) instead of pine nuts. So not only is it better tasting but lower in fat too. It is vegetarian (or vegan if you opt for vegan parmesan) and very versatile.  So let’s get started!


Beyond Pasta: Pesto for Everything

I’ve been meaning to do a post about pesto for about half a year now. But I kept putting it off in favor of other things that would catch my attention. Apparently, I have a scattered brain much like my almost two-year-old (she must be rubbing off on me).

A basic basil pesto is a staple in our house especially since my daughter loves the stuff. I can slather some pesto on almost anything and she gobbles it right up. It has saved us countless times when my day has gotten away from me and I don’t have the proper time I need to make us dinner. Just cook up some pasta, saute up some veggies, and/or toss in some chicken or shrimp and you’ve got an awesome pesto pasta dish that took less than 30 minutes to make.

But pesto can be used for so much more than just pasta!

Pesto is great:

  • in sandwiches
  • in burgers
  • on garlic bread or in bruschetta
  • as part of a salad dressing
  • spread on meat or chicken
  • tossed with vegetables especially zucchini
  • in a quinoa bowl
  • in a breakfast skillet
  • in muffins or other bakes bread

And much more!

How to Make Basil Pesto

close up photo of pesto for texture

As I stated earlier, pesto is incredibly easy to make. A basic basil pesto recipe requires a few ingredients to make. You just need some fresh basil, olive oil (or other oil), pepitas or another kind of nut or seed (pistachios, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and pine nuts), Parmesan, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Naturally, using the freshest basil you can find is a must for achieving the best flavor in pesto. If you have a sunny window or patio, growing your own basil is incredibly easy to do especially for beginners and it will save you a ton of money in the long run. Second to that depending on the season, a local farmer’s market is the next best way to go as there is always a vendor selling fresh herbs at any market I’ve ever been to. And when these other two avenues aren’t available, there is always a grocery store.

If you choose to use olive oil, extra virgin is really the way to go. Not only is it the most flavorful oil but it retains the most nutrients compared to regular olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is cold pressed so no heat or chemicals are used and because of that, it retains a high amount of antioxidants and monosaturated fats (which includes essential fatty acids) as well as a moderate amount of vitamin K and E. It is the natural choice and traditional oil for pesto.

But if you happen to have hemp oil on hand like I do, a couple tablespoons of hemp oil is perfect in pesto. And hemp oil is incredibly good for you too! It is high in essential fatty acid much like EVOO but unlike EVOO where the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is 10:1, hemp oil has a ratio of 3:1 which is optimal. It is also high in antioxidants and “good” fats as well. You could choose to use hemp oil instead of olive oil but I find hemp oil to be a bit overpowering if used by itself.

To make a mix of hemp and olive oil, I put two or three tablespoons of hemp oil in the measuring cup and fill the rest with olive oil.

Lastly, I love to use pepitas in my pesto instead of pine nuts although I know traditionally pine nuts are used. Both are highly nutritious but pepitas contain more fiber and less fat than pine nuts and are much cheaper.

I highly recommend raw pepitas for this recipe as they retain more nutrients than the roasted ones but both work equally well. Just make sure that they are unsalted either way. If you are a traditionalist with pesto, by all means, use pine nuts instead. It will taste wonderful either way.

When making this recipe, put in your blender or food processor all the ingredients except the oil. If using a food processor, go ahead a pulse these ingredients a few times using a spatula to scrap the sides in between. But if you are using a really good blender like the one I’ve got, you can skip that step.

Once that is done, add the oil slowly while the machine is running on a low speed until you get the desired thickness. I’ve found that using fresh Parmesan requires less oil than the grated powder stuff you find in the bottle. You can also substitute the Parmesan out for Romano cheese instead at the same amount.

Once this is done and you’ve got a smooth paste, you can store this in a glass jar in the fridge for about a week or freeze it for up to 4 months.

Basil pesto has a tendency to brown over time when exposed to air. To avoid this, add a thin layer (just enough to completely cover the pesto) of olive oil on top before capping. If you choose to freeze it, I found an ice cube tray worked perfectly for this. Simply fill the tray and pop it in the freezer for a day. You can then pull out of the tray and store them in a freezer safe container. When ready to use pull out the cubes you need and either put them under some room temperature water which takes about 30 minutes or stick them in the fridge 24 hours in advance to thaw.

That’s it!

Easy Basil Pesto Recipe
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
5 mins
Total Time
15 mins
 

Are you looking to make your own basil pesto at home? This easy basil pesto recipe is vegetarian and only takes seven ingredients to make.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keyword: easy basil pesto recipe, fresh basil pesto recipe, homemade basil pesto recipe
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 168 kcal
Author: Tina
Ingredients
  • 2 cups fresh basil (approx. 3oz. container)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan shredded
  • 1/3 cup pepitas unsalted and hulled
  • 3 cloves garlic raw
  • 1/2 cup olive oil* extra virgin
  • 1/4 tsp. Himalayan salt or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
Instructions
  1. Place all the ingredients except the oil in a blender or food processor.

  2. If using a food processor, pulse the dry ingredients a few times using a spatula to scrape the sides in between turns.

  3. While running the blender or food processor slowly add the oil until you get the desired thickness. Add more oil if needed.

  4. Store in a glass jar with a thin layer of oil on top in the fridge for up to a week. Alternatively, you can freeze it for up to 4 months.

Recipe Notes

* Substitute 2-3 tablespoons hemp oil and fill the rest with olive oil

Calorie count is based off a serving which is roughly 2 heaping tablespoons.

I really hope you give this recipe a try! From a pasta dish to sandwich spread and salad dressing, this basic pesto is sure to have a place in your fridge permanently. Plus, I just love to see my family’s plates look like this at the end of a meal. So satisfying!

Looking for other ways to use this pesto? How about a baby food puree? With this pesto having no nuts in it, it’s a perfect addition to a chicken puree for your little one. Or better yet, make a complete meal for your budding connoisseur with my chicken pesto with pasta and veggies puree.

If you have any questions or comments about my easy basil pesto recipe, I would love to hear from you! Even better I would love to see pictures of your beautiful creations!

Happy Blending!

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