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Pesto Sauce Recipe – Once Upon a Chef

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Homemade pesto sauce is easy to make, and it’s good on just about everything, from pastas to pizzas to salads.

One of my favorite things about summer cooking is stepping out my back door to pick fresh herbs from my potted herb garden. It always amazes me how the tiny seedlings I impatiently wait for to sprout in May grow into more herbs than I can possibly use up in August. Right now, my basil plant is overflowing, which means it’s time to make pesto sauce! Pesto, or pesto alla genovese, is a vibrant, garlicky green sauce that originated in Genoa, Italy. It’s traditionally made with a mortar and pestle, but most modern versions call for using a food processor. Pesto is a versatile sauce that can be used on just about everything, from pastas to sandwiches to salads. It freezes well, too.

potted herb garden

What You’ll Need To Make Pesto Sauce

Traditional pesto is made with garlic, nuts, salt, basil leaves, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and extra-virgin olive oil. It’s important to use top-quality ingredients, as the flavors really shine through. 

ingredients for pesto sauce

For the cheese, be sure to use authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy; domestic Parmesan is not the same thing. You can always tell if the cheese is authentic by looking at the rind, which is embossed with the name over and over. If the cheese is already grated, it should be labeled “Parmigiano-Reggiano,” not “Parmesan.”

For the nuts, I use walnuts instead of the more traditional pine nuts for a few reasons. First, I always seem to have walnuts in the house (pine nuts can be very pricey). Second, in recent years an increasing number of people, including me, have fallen prey to a bizarre problem with pine nuts called Pine Mouth Syndrome, a bitter, metallic taste in the mouth that develops a day or two after eating pine nuts. It can last for weeks and make eating or drinking anything very unpleasant. (You can use pecans or almonds, too.)

Step-by-Step Instructions

walnuts and garlic in food processor

To begin, combine the walnuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.

coarsely chopped walnuts and garlic

Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper.

adding basil, salt, and pepper to food processor

Process until finely chopped.

finely chopped basil in food processor

Then, with the food processor running, add the olive oil through the feed tube in a steady stream.

olive oil blended into pesto

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

adding the cheese

Process again until smooth, and that’s your pesto sauce.

blended finished pesto sauce

How To Store & Freeze Pesto

Use the pesto immediately or store it in a tightly sealed jar or air-tight plastic container, covered with a thin layer of olive oil (this seals out the air and prevents the sauce from oxidizing, which would turn it an ugly brown color). It will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.

Pesto can also be frozen in an airtight container for up to 6 months. I suggest dividing it into the compartments of an ice cube tray and freezing. Once frozen, remove the cubes from the tray and put in a sealable plastic bag or airtight container. You can add the defrosted cubes to soups, pasta or zoodle dishes, pizza, eggs, sandwiches, and potatoes.

More Summer Recipes You May Like

The Best Basic Pesto

Homemade pesto sauce is easy to make, and it’s good on just about everything, from pastas to pizzas to salads.

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup walnuts
  • 2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups gently packed fresh basil leaves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Instructions

  1. Place the walnuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until coarsely chopped, about 10 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper and process until mixture resembles a paste, about 1 minute. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly blended. Add the Parmesan and process a minute more. Use pesto immediately or store in a tightly sealed jar or air-tight plastic container, covered with a thin layer of olive oil (this seals out the air and prevents the pesto from oxidizing, which would turn it an ugly brown color). It will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.
  2. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: Pesto can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 6 months. You can also divide your prepared pesto into the compartments of an ice cube tray and freeze. Once it’s frozen, remove the pesto cubes from the tray and put in a sealable plastic bag or airtight container. You can add the defrosted pesto cubes to soups, pasta dishes, eggs, sandwiches, and potatoes.

Nutrition Information

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  • Serving size: 2 Tbsp.
  • Calories: 159
  • Fat: 17 g
  • Saturated fat: 3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 1 g
  • Sugar: 0 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 3 g
  • Sodium: 161 mg
  • Cholesterol: 4 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you’re following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

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