How to make homemade pesto sauce
You only need a few simple ingredients to make the homemade pesto sauce. It's so delicious and easy that you'll never want to go back to the store-bought again!
It's no secret that the pesto sauce is a bestseller in our Venice location, and because a large part of our customers does not have the opportunity to visit us very often, we thought that this recipe would be useful to you to prepare this delicious sauce at home!
Seriously, if you haven't already, grab a bunch of fresh basil or two and do yourself a favour: make homemade pesto at home as soon as possible! Did I mention that your kitchen will smell amazing, too?
Let’s do this!
How to make homemade fresh pesto sauce – step by step
First, add the basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic and parmesan in your food processor (step 1)
Pulse a few times until ingredients are combined and look like a rough paste (step 2).
Pour olive oil slowly in the food processor while it's running (or add a little at a time, mix, add a little more and mix again). Pulse until it's mixed and somewhat smooth (I like it not perfectly smooth!), scraping down the sides of the food processor as needed. Season with salt to taste.
Variations and substitutions
The combo and proportions below are my favourite way to make pesto – but you can play around with the ingredients and find what’s your favourite version!
- Cheese: Parmesan is traditional but you can also use Grana Padano or pecorino romano. No cheese? No problem! Try nutritional yeast instead or leave the cheese out entirely!
- Nuts: If you don’t have pine nuts, find them too expensive or just want something different, try making your pesto with walnuts! It’s great with roasted almonds and pistachios too.
- Garlic: Our advice is to start with a little and add more to your taste (because you can always add more, but too much is hard to fix!)
Making ahead and freezing pesto sauce
If not used straight away, you’ll notice that pesto darkens pretty quickly. It’s okay. It’s caused by oxidation. Although it’s less bright and pretty, it doesn’t change the taste. To prevent oxidation, cover the top of the pesto with olive oil.
You can make the pesto sauce ahead and store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
Pesto sauce freezes well! If you know from the start that you’re going to freeze it, omit the cheese because it doesn’t freeze well (but if you do end up freezing it with cheese, you’ll be okay, don’t worry).
For individual portions, like an ice cube tray with plastic wrap, fill each pocket with pesto and freeze. Remove from the ice cube tray and store in freezer bags. When ready to eat, thaw in the fridge (not in the microwave) and add in the cheese.
Also…never (re)heat pesto! It will lose a lot of its delicious flavour. Instead, bring it to room temperature if it was in the fridge and it will be heated by the warm ingredients you’re using it with (pasta, veggies and so on).
Can you make pesto sauce in a blender?
That’s a good question. It works best in the food processor. We don’t like making pesto in the blender because you need to use more olive oil to get it running, it doesn’t have the same nice and smooth texture and I find that I lose a lot of the precious nectar at the bottom of the blender (plus it’s more difficult to wash).
BUT! if you only have a blender, you can make it work. Pack the basil leaves at the bottom of the blender, then top with parmesan, garlic and pine nuts. Pulse as much as you can, then slowly add in the olive oil. You will probably have to use more than 1/3 cup olive oil to get the blender to really blend the mixture.
This will work better in the blender if you double all the quantities (as if you were making two batches) – the more ingredients you have, the easier it will be for your blender to do the work.
How to use pesto sauce:
The most obvious way to use basil pesto sauce is with fresh pasta – there’s a reason it’s so popular: it’s ridiculously delicious!
Don't know how to make fresh pasta at home? The article below is special for you!
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