Fresh, Homemade Basil Pesto Sauce With Pine Nuts
This fresh homemade Basil Pesto sauce is like a little taste of heaven. You wouldn't think that it's so simple and easy to make, but it is. Make this basil pesto sauce once and I'll guarantee that you will be making this over and over again to put over pasta or fresh vegetables.
What Goes Into Basil Pesto Sauce?
You would naturally think that Pesto Sauce is made only with Basil. But, actually there are many different types of herbs or vegetables that you can use to make a delicious pesto.
Here are a few examples:
- Cilantro Pesto
- Pepper Pesto
- Nut Pesto (walnut, pistachio, etc...)
- Arugula Pesto
- Spinach Pesto
- Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
- Basil Pesto - which is the one we are going to make together today
These are just a few examples of the types of pesto that can be made. There are so many combinations and with your imagination the possibilities are truly endless.
Cooking is like science, you need to experiment with different combinations to come up with the perfect result (for you). But, don't worry if it's not perfect. Pat yourself on the back for trying, you deserve it! Just try and figure out what you did wrong and do it different next time.
Ingredients Needed for a Good Pesto Sauce
Fresh Herbs - this is the main ingredient, for this recipe the herb we are going to use is basil. But you could use sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, parsley, cilantro or any leafy herb or vegetable. In fact, I've even see some recipes for Butternut Squash pesto.
Cheese - the addition of a cheese brings a bite to the pesto. You need a hard cheese with a bite, like pecorino cheese or a parmesan cheese. Goat cheese or feta will also work with a pesto.
Nuts - bring a nice crunch to the pesto but aren't mandatory. Pine nuts compliment a basil pesto but they are a little pricey. You can use walnuts in place of pine nuts or any other nut for that matter. They particularly taste better when toasted as that brings out a more pronounced nutty taste. Of course, if you have an allergy to nuts, you can easily eliminate them all together.
Oil - You always want to use the freshest and finest oil. Extra Virgin Olive Oil works best if you are making a Basil Pesto. You want to match the oil with the type of pesto you are making. Other options are avocado oil, truffle oil, sesame seed oil, etc.
Garlic - garlic is the heart of any good pesto sauce. Always use freshly, crushed garlic. Crushing the garlic brings out the boldness of the garlic. Some even sauté the garlic, this isn't necessary but optional if you want to take this extra step.
Now, I've seen a few recipe that include vinegar or lemon juice. And while I don't personally add these ingredients to my basil pesto sauce you may wish to include them. Aside from keeping the basil from discoloring, I don't feel that it adds flavor worth including it as an ingredient. But, that's just my opinion!
So, if you want, I'll leave it up to you to decide whether you want to add lemon juice or not, this is totally optional.
How to Make Pesto
The easiest way to make pesto is by using a food processor or mini-food processor. That's what I use. Depending on how much pesto you are going to make you can use a regular size food processor.
If you don't have a food processor, don't worry. You can also use a hand blender. And if you don't have a hand blender don't worry!
For those of you that don't have a food processor, you can finely chop up the basil with a knife or scissors. Add it to a bowl with finely chopped garlic and nuts of your choosing. Add the parmesan, any seasoning and then finish with the oil and mix.
Of course, if you have a mortar and pestle you can also use it to finely grind the basil and then take it from there. Add remaining ingredients and Bob's your uncle.
What Can you Use Pesto Sauce For?
You probably think that the only use for Basil Pesto is spaghetti. But, you would be surprised that it can be used for so much more. Here are some ideas that you can use a Pesto sauce for:
- spaghetti sqush (aka Whole30 spaghetti)
- pizza sauce
- grilled/baked salmon, seafood
How Long will Fresh Homemade Pesto last?
Because homemade pesto has no preservatives it will not have a long shelf life. You can store pesto refrigerated for 5 -7 days in fridge. Always make sure that the is sufficient oil that the herbs/ingredients are submerged.
You can also freeze it in a freezer safe container and thaw it out overnight in the freezer when you are ready to use it.
Note that the storage guidelines provided on this page and site are estimates from personal experiences. We are all adults and as an adult you are responsible to ensure that the food you eat is safe to eat. Since, I'm not a food safety expert, you are responsible to review your local guidelines on food storage prior to storing any food left-overs.
- Not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
Using Pesto - How to Serve
Unlike other sauces, pesto sauce doesn't require any cooking. One thing you want to consider when you are using Basil to make a pesto is the final taste.
Fresh basil tastes much different than cooked pesto. And usually, the Basil Pesto sauce is added to spaghetti or vegetables just prior to it being served, but you don't actually cook with it.
The only exception might be if you are making a pizza and are using it as a pizza sauce. Then you would spread the pesto over the pizza dough and bake it.
Serving on Vegetables - Use this pesto over grilled vegetables. Once your vegetables are ready, you can pour the sauce over your vegetables and toss to combine.
You can also brush on the pesto if your vegetables are cut into large pieces.
Serving over Spaghetti Squash - Place your cooked spaghetti squash in a pan and heat to cook off the water. Turn heat off and pour pesto over squash and mix to combine.
Don't know how to cook spaghetti squash? Read up on how to cook squash for Roasted Butternut Squash Soup where I explain the best way to cook squash.
Serving over Pasta - When it comes to pasta, it's all about that wonderful starchy pasta water! Always reserve some of your past water when you drain your pasta. I recommend saving about 1 cup.
Do not rinse pasta! If you rinse the pasta you will wash away the starch that helps the sauce to stick to it. Once your pasta is drained, place it back in the pot and pour the pesto sauce over it. Mix the pasta to combine the sauce. Use the reserved pasta water if your pasta starts to stick together or clumps up!
That's it. Did you make this? Leave a comment below and let me know how it went.
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Homemade Pesto Basil Sauce
- 2 cup fresh basil leaves slightly packed
- 1 cloves garlic peeled
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts slightly roasted (or nut of your choice)
- ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- ⅓ cup olive oil or more, depending on your preference
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp of vinegar or lemon juice optional
- 1. Place pine nuts on a small baking sheet and roast at 350°F for 5 to 7 minutes in a toaster oven or oven. Let cool. (You can also roast them in a pan over the stove).
- 2. combine everything, except olive oil, and place in a mini-blender. Pulse or chop until basil and pine nuts are finely chopped.
- 3. Add the olive oil and pulse everything together until the mixture is thoroughly mixed.
- 4. You may want to add more olive oil as per your preference for a fluid sauce.
- 5. Add to pasta or vegetable dishes before serving. (do not cook the pesto sauce as this will change the flavor of the basil pesto sauce.)
- Use immediately or refrigerate for later use.
- If you are making this to serve over pasta, follow the cooking directions on the pasta box. Don't forget to reserve some pasta water!